Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Years!

Happy new year everyone! I'd just like to point to a great post on the concept of a "year", and how we measure it, by Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, over at his blog. What will we see in this next year? For one, the return of Futurama to television! Hopefully the conclusion of the Writer's Guild strike, as well as Cloverfield. We'll see a new president get elected in eleven months, and hopefully with that new president we'll also get a change of many policies.

I've got a good idea for a post for tomorrow, but I don't want to spoil any festivities of people who may be reading this (it's about torture). Then again, at this point I don't think anyone is reading haha! So stay tuned tomorrow, and again, Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

First Post!

Welcome to my blog! What can you expect? Well, I'm honestly not too sure. Probably some talk about my research as that gets underway, video/computer games, my opinion on stuff, science, and geekery. Speaking of geekery, I think I'll begin this post by talking about computer games.

What is it with mainstream media outlets that forces gamers (myself included) to be categorized as a sub-culture, with an emphasis on sub? More people than ever are buying and playing games, thanks in large part to consoles. In fact, if you walk through any college dormitory in the US, you'll probably find at least two consoles per floor, if not more.

Games are reaching a point where they are in direct competition with more "traditional" forms of entertainment, such as television and films, and can now be considered a form of art all their own. Games such as BioShock, Half-Life 2 (and its subsequent episodic content), Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, and even going as far back as the relatively obscure Escape Velocity series, have as much artistic merit as any film, often more. BioShock has the most memorable, chilling moment of perfect storytelling that managed to raise goosebumps as I played through it, and I don't want to spoil it for you, so I won't. What makes BioShock so wonderful is that it is interactive. Films and television are a rigid path where you are merely an observer, while games place you in the story, in the thick of the action, letting you act it out for yourself. You are no longer watching the hero, anti-hero, or villain, you are that person, and their actions are your own.

Half-Life 2: Episode 2 proves once again what a well-written, well planned, and very well executed story can do for a game. The mysteries surrounding the G-Man, Gordon Freeman, and now Alyx Vance, all serve the purpose of a dark storyline that stretches from the original Half-Life, through HL2 and its Epiosodes, and beyond. When you put these games together they create a truly epic journey, and I rarely see films that are as creative, or epic as the Half-Life saga. Half-Life's strength is in its characters, from the everyday Combine villain to the Vortigaunts to the headcrab Lamarr.

So if storytelling is not really the problem, then what is it? Is it games like Halo 3, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, or any other "repetitive" game that involves sometimes copious amounts of violence? These are the games that most often make headlines, and I think I know where the problem arises. To someone who has grown up without video games and is for all intents and purposes an "outsider", these games may well seem like killing-simulators or trainers. They see their kids sitting alone shooting people for hours on end, over and over. What they don't see is someone playing a game, who can tell the difference between games and reality. To assume that being exposed to violence through video games will cause a child to become more violent is to grossly underestimate a person's reasoning abilities. People who go on rampages through schools are not normal people to begin with, and I'm sure that if people in politics and the media took the time to research the kid's psychological history, they would find a sad story of a damaged mind. What troubles me, and should trouble these people, are those who seek real violence, through the news or the internet. The kind of people who would intentionally seek videos like Saddam Hussein's hanging or Steve Irwin's death, or images of war. Games may be becoming more and more realistic, but they are in no way reality. They are a virtual, artificial world, and gamers know this.

The irony will come in maybe ten or fifteen years, when my generation, the gaming generation, replaces this older generation who sees so many faults with us, and Assassin's Creed may prove more prophetic than ever: Video Games may more or less replace movies and drive Hollywood out of business, but I wouldn't count on it. What I would count on is more cultural acceptance of computer and video games as time goes on, with bigger, better, more amazing games than any of us can imagine now, and who knows what will come next.

Well, thanks for reading this first, mediocre post! Hopefully I'll get better at writing these things as time goes on, so please stick around! :)