Archive for July, 2005
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on some kind of rant about how appalled I am at the whole ‘Hot Coffee’ deal. There’s really nothing that I could say that hasn’t been said elsewhere, and there’s really no sense in rehashing it yet again.
Here are some quotes that I’ve culled from various websites regarding the matter:
From Eccentricities: “The newest Grand Theft Auto game is being pulled from many stores, getting a new, “adults only” rating, and promising parents a refund. I think this is really great, and will send everyone the message what America is all about: stealing cars, shooting cops, and beating hookers. with no sex involved. I mean, what kind of a country would we be if we allowed people to be sexual all the time, and get the “hot coffee” hookup whenever they wanted? I tell you, the mere thought of it makes me want to bash a hooker in the head with a bat and steal her money!”
From 1UP: “[B]ecause GTA is a ‘known’ title, [i]t’ll get people who don’t know much about games to pay attention. God of War had more accessible sex (off camera), and higher-rez naked female chests… nobody says anything.”
From GameSpot: “[S]ome business writers are suggesting Take-Two is privately reveling in the publicity the “Hot Coffee” controversy has brought it. “After all, nothing says ‘buy me’ to a 15-year-old quite like a message that this product is too racy to sell at Circuit City and GameStop,” Business Week columnist David Kiley wrote. “In my opinion, censorship and uproar will only make San Andreas and future GTA games more appealing to teen gamers, Take-Two’s target audience,” said Motley Fool editor Nathan Alderman.”
From Game Girl Advance: “What’s okay in GTA (the series) for seventeen year olds:
Assault with a deadly weapon.
Grand theft auto (duh)
Sex with prostitutes (tastefully hidden!)
What’s not okay in GTA (the series) for seventeen year olds:
Consentual softcore sex between two adults, one of which is fully clothed.”
From Penny Arcade: “There’s no question that the industry is beset by career opportunists and lazy people willing to outsource their responsibilities as parents, but the pronounced winking and looking the other way on the industry side of the equation won’t fly with this level of scrutiny en route.”
From an interview conducted by IGN: “The industry has a voluntary system right now whereby they rate various games, “M” for mature audiences, “Adults Only,” or for all ages. There is a rating system that the ESRB has established. The gaming industry has argued that the voluntary rating system should be sufficient to deter any [under-age] individual from going in and purchasing a game. The problem with that is that it is a voluntary system, and that voluntary system doesn’t work. There are two reasons why it doesn’t work. If the voluntary system works, why don’t we have a voluntary system in the sale of cigarettes to children, the sale of alcohol or adult magazines to children? The reality is that just doesn’t work. Secondly, by statistical data and anecdotal data, the Federal Trade Commission has reported that in 80% of cases you can find young people under-age going into stores and purchasing these games. We’ve got emails from students on school projects. In one case in the East Bay, they’ve gone out and in 50% of the cases they’ve been able to purchase “M” rated video games while clearly under-age. It simply doesn’t work.”
From the National Institute on Media and the Family: “What about the rating?
This game was rated
My ISP has recently decided to utilize DHCP instead of handing out static IP addresses. If you don’t know what that means, then disregard this paragraph.
If you are seeing this message then my temporary measures have proven effective. If not, email me and I’ll see what I can do.
Access to the site may be spotty while I get these issues ironed out. My apologies.
I won’t actually be back until tomorrow, but, as an early present, I’ve prepared a report detailing what I did on one of the days I spent away from this site.
A Day in Basscomm’s Vacation
The story of what I did on my vacation from the site is very true and completely not boring.
It all started out simply enough with a trip to my local EB Games. I went there to find some games for my other site (The Closeout Warrior). When I walked in the door, the guy behind the counter said, “Thank you for calling EBGames, your Nintendo headquarters, my name is Travis. How can I help you?” I thought this was weird because I had completely not called, evidenced by my lack of a phone and the way I walked into the building. I got about halfway to the back of the store before I realized that he managed to answer the phone about a quarter of a second before I walked in. Fantastic. At least I didn’t make a huge production about it this time.
I walked over to my favorite place in the store, the bargain section. I scoured the selection they had until I found some that would suffice and then made my way to the counter to pay. As I walked over to the counter, I overheard some people talking about what I thought was some kind of website on the Internet. For a brief second, my ears perked up since they thought that they heard one of them say something about “Crummy” and “Socks.” Turns out that they were talking about actual socks. Gross.
After I regained my composure (i.e. I quit staring at the other people in the store) I went to the counter and attempted to pay for my selections. Travis had somehow managed to disappear from the store, no doubt he went to find a camera so he could take my picture. We Internet celebrities get that a lot. Not really wanting to wait around any longer than I had to, I picked up my cell phone and called the store. I heard that familiar, “Thank you for calling EBGames, your Nintendo headquarters, my name is Travis. How can I help you?” I said, “I’m at the register and I’d like to pay for some games.” In a flash, Travis dropped the phone and literally flew to the counter. I don’t think his feet even touched the floor, and I’m pretty sure I heard a sonic boom. Once he regained his composure, I paid for my pile of goodies and left the store. On my way to the car, I was distracted by something shiny. That seems to happen to me a lot. I go over to investigate, and it turns out to be some kind of token to some arcade I’ve never heard of. Great. That did me absolutely no good. So I picked it up and put it in my wallet along with the other tokens I have for arcades that don’t exist within a three state radius of my house. I’m becoming more and more certain that there is a Useless Arcade Token cartel operating in my area dropping tokens on the ground where I am likely to go just so they can secretly film my reactions to picking them up. So, after a minor distraction, I hopped into my car and headed back to the compound.
Right as I’m about to chalk this day up to be a total loss, I have a brainstorm: Why don’t I go home and set up my GameCube outside so I can get in some gaming and Sun at the same time? Because that’s a terrible idea. I think there’s something wrong with my Idea Lobe. At least my Thinking Things Through Cortex is functioning properly. Or it may be my Lazy Gland. I get those confused.
As I pulled onto the street in front of my house, resolved to sit and stare at the 45 games I bought until one jumped out begging me to play it, I realized that I hadn’t played half of the games I got the last time I went out. This could be bad. When I got inside and realized that I now had to climb onto a chair to dump these games on the pile, I started to think. Then I got a headache. Then I ate some aspirin, took a nap, and came back to the game pile. I certainly had a problem on my hands. I had all these games, but I didn’t really know what I had. So I decided that I needed to sort the games into three piles: games made by companies I’ve never heard of, games made by companies I’ve heard of that usually make good games, and games made by companies I’ve heard of that usually make bad games. That sounded like a lot of work. Then I remembered that I got all these games for less than $10, and most of them for substantially less. When they get that cheap, they really only fall into one category… So I’ve already got them all sorted into the ‘It doesn’t matter who made it, the game cost less than $10 so it’s a pile of garbage’ pile. Awesome. All that sorting wore me out. I needed to take a break.
If you’ve ever been to my house, like I have, then you know that other than updating the crummysocks.com family of sites there are really only four things to do: play games, eat, sleep, and assorted bathroom activities (everything you can do in there counts as one thing). Since I had already slept that day and didn’t have any instant food to eat that left playing games and the bathroom thing. Since doing the bathroom thing would have been really boring (and kind of gross) to read about, I decided to play some games. I didn’t want to play games in the ‘traditional’ way, that is, in my room with all the windows and doors shut, the lights turned off, and the surround sound turned WAY UP! That’s boring. Everyone does it that way, and I’m not everyone… I think. So I hatched a plan.
I decided to play video games the way my ancestors played them. I turned off the air conditioning, opened all the windows and doors, turned the ceiling fan on, turned the television to MONO sound, and turned the color all the way down. Perfect! Now I can play video games just like people did back in the Age of Reason!
I don’t mind telling you that I like the puzzle games, and I consider myself to be almost not terrible at them. I decided to pop in Tetris Attack and get down to some panel-flipping madness. I’ve managed to beat this game senseless in the past, but for some reason that day I started having real troubles with it. I lined up all the grey panels, but they didn’t want to clear for some reason. It had to have been an off day. After a few rounds of me getting absolutely nowhere, I decided to play a little Kirby’s Avalanche instead. I used to play this game occasionally on the XBand network and actually managed to not lose a couple of times. I started lining up all the grey blobs, but they just sat there on the screen staring at me instead of letting me win. I just couldn’t get out of the gate (figuratively, I don’t have any gates in my house) with this game and swiftly lost to Waddle Dee. I mean, really, Waddle Dee?! I was deflated. I decided to try something completely different and put in Space Channel 5 for my Dreamcast, even though I don’t do particularly well at the rhythm thing. After eking out the first couple of levels I remembered that there was a secret combination of buttons that I could press that would allow me to progress at this game no matter what I did. Hey, I’m sure that if my ancestors would have had button codes available to them they would have used them. So I pressed the arcane series of buttons and decisively completed the rest of the game.
Now that I felt better about my game playing mettle, I decided that playing games this way, while immensely educational, was really kind of lame. Besides, even with all the windows open, I started to get really really hot, and not in a good way. So I changed the house back to normal, grabbed a Game Boy Advance and my DS, and decided to hit the road while the house cooled back down.
I was pretty sure it was not cold outside since when I opened the windows I let all kinds of hotness (the bad kind) into the house. I needed to find a place where they wouldn’t care if I just sat in a corner and played games while soaking up all the air conditioning I could hold. I decided that a likely place would be the mall. I actually hate the mall, so I must have had a temporary lapse of sanity when I made that decision.
In the mall, there are stores that have DS systems set up for people to futz around with. The DS has built in wireless and built in chat. Handy. I went into the stores and set the various machines into some Pictochat chat rooms and went out into the concourse to have a little fun. When I saw some little kid (the smaller the better) wander up to one of the demo units, I’d start emoting and chatting and whatever with them. I was having a grand old time telling people that I could see what color shirt they were wearing and that their haircuts were hilarious until I noticed two things: lots of little kids turned off the DS as soon as they walked up (thinking they were turning it on), and I had left my name and URL in my Pictochat greeting. This means that anyone armed with a pen and paper (or an exceptionally good memory) could go to my site and leave some half-baked feedback. I prefer to have my feedback fully-baked, thank you very much. I needed to go back to the Server Room (i.e. my kitchen) and take appropriate counter measures, but so far my trip out to the mall took longer than the amount of time that I had actually spent there. I needed to kill just slightly more time before I left to justify the ridiculous amount of gas I expended getting there. Hitting the arcade sounded like a good idea, but the mall I was in doesn’t have an arcade. Really. I thought it was a mall tenet that they had to have some kind of arcade. Even the crappy mall down the street (Washington Square Mall, the first one in Indiana. No kidding, look it up) has a crappy arcade full of crappy games that are older than the mall itself. But that’s more than 50 feet (50 kilometers for my international visitors) away down the street. There’s an arcade across the parking lot, but that’s all the way across the parking lot. I’m not walking that insane distance, and if I’m getting in my car, it’s going to be to go home. No, I needed to find something to do in this mall. Lots of ideas whipped through my head in rapid succession: I could sit down and play my Game Boy in the food court, I could play my Game Boy while sitting down on one of the benches strewn throughout the mall, I could walk aimlessly through the concourse playing my Game Boy and kind of halfway try to not bump into people, etc. Then it dawned on me that all these ideas had one thing in common, they were all lame. If I was going to play my Game Boy in the mall, I needed to do it in a way that was both interesting and exciting. It needed to be EXTREME TO THE MAX. I figured that the best way to do that would be to head to the carousel in the food court.
When I first saw the carousel go into the food court, I thought it was really stupid. Now, I still think it’s really stupid, but I had a plan. I paid my admission, selected my plastic horse and saddled up. I hollered at the attendant to “Turn this thing up to eleven!” but I don’t think he heard me. I took the opportunity in the short time before the ride started to unsheathe my Game Boy Advance SP and slap my copy of Wario Ware Twisted into it. Thoughts of the challenge of going around in circles and going up and down while playing a game that required me to rotate the system were making their way though my head when I heard the attendant start yelling. “No!” he bellowed, “That’s never been done before! There could be consequences!” “Don’t worry,” I assured him, “I’m a professional. I’ve done crazier things than this for breakfast.” I flashed my official Nintendo Super Power Club ID badge and his fears subsided. Or he thought I was one of the mall loonies. As long as he started up the rig, I didn’t really care all that much. I turned on the game and he turned on the ride. Let me tell you, it was every bit as exciting as it sounds. In very short order, however, I began to realize that I should have brought some Dramamine with me. I don’t normally get motion sickness, and I’m not sure I really had motion sickness, but I very quickly started to get that vertigo feeling. After what seemed like hours, the ride began to slow to a stop. Either my time was up or the attendant was tired of seeing me huddled in a heap on the edge of the ride threatening to reveal the contents of my stomach to the whole food court. I learned a hard lesson right then, playing a Game Boy EXTREME TO THE MAX makes me EXTREMELY SICK TO THE MAX. So much for my Thinking Things Through Cortex functioning at full capacity. I decided that I needed something to calm my queasy stomach so I could leave this place. I certainly couldn’t drive home in this condition. The thought of loosing my breakfast on the pristine interior of my Ford Tempo was so stomach churning that I almost evacuated the contents of my stomach as soon as my feet hit solid non-spinning ground.
In my funk, I stumbled over to the mall information desk. I asked the (what I assumed to be a) woman behind the counter if she(?) had any ideas of where I could go to settle my stomach. She(?) suggested the coffee shop conveniently located right behind me. I don’t like coffee.
So I headed to the coffee shop and looked for a place to sit down and possibly play a game that doesn’t in any way involve spinning. Oddly enough, this particular mall-based coffee shop didn’t seem to own any chairs, and the people working there looked at me with some contempt when they saw me stumble in. I figured that I would have a better chance of being allowed to sit on the floor staring at a Game Boy for an hour or so if I ordered something. Since I don’t like coffee, I decided to order a large cup of whipped cream with no ice. Looking back, I now know that $7.50 was a little steep to pay for ten ounces (ten liters for my international visitors) of whipped cream, but I wasn’t thinking clearly with my compromised digestive tract. I grabbed my ‘beverage’, pulled up some floor, and started playing some Pokémon. Almost immediately after I turned on my Game Boy little kids began to appear out of thin air and then gravitate towards me. I had forgotten that playing Pokémon in public is like opening a nexus in the fabric of the universe that draws prepubescent people inexorably toward it. They all had that crazed look in their eyes like they wanted to battle. Sure, why not? I had recovered enough from my ordeal on the carousel to totally cream some little kids in a game I was obviously better at since I’m older than them.
We quickly decided on the rules that the first kid and I would use: anything goes. After a long drawn-out fight, the battle was over. 6-0. I lost. Crap. Must have been the weakened stomach. The next kid came up and we decided to limit the level to 50. I lost again. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew I was better than this. I mean, I’ve beaten the Elite Four three times. These kids must have been some kind of genetically-engineered super Pokémon prodigies sent out to destroy the confidence of my generation of gamers. After several dozen battles, slightly lowering the level cap each time, we finally got to level 5 or under… and I pulled out a victory! It seems that these ‘Super gamers’ were so focused on getting uber characters that they didn’t have any that met the level requirements! I won by default! After that, I played two hundred more matches with the same level restrictions and was successful every time! Every time I won, I shouted at the kids to read my ‘pwnz0red’ tee shirt out loud. I don’t wear that thing just because it makes me look good. Real good. Having bolstered my winning percentage and humiliated little kids, I walked out of the coffee shop with my head held high.
I was feeling pretty good. My stomach had stopped doing a dance in my gut and adrenaline was racing through my body. Once that started to wear off, however, I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything in upwards of 12 hours and that cup of cream was starting to wear thin. My sentence in the mall had ended so I was free to go at any time. But go where? All I had in my refrigerator was food components, and I was in no mood to cobble them into a something edible. After I got into the car and drove away, I decided that I needed something that was cheap, already assembled, and I could get on the way back to the lair. There are several places that fit the bill, but not all of them are geared toward the gaming elite, like myself. I immediately began to formulate my idea of a gamer’s restaurant that would feature nothing but greaseless finger food that you could eat while playing a game. While I was working out the menu and the pricing in my head, I remembered that I was actually driving a car. I swerved to avoid another car that looked very expensive and ended up in the parking lot of some burger place I had never heard of before. McSomething, I think. Anyway, the place was creepy. It was like nobody in there had even heard of a video game, much less ever seen a game player of my caliber. I immediately became keenly aware of people staring intently at my controller-laden sash, my Power Glove, and my twin Zappers (one orange and one grey, natch) in their holsters. I hastily ordered my meal and got out of there as quickly as I could, my attire intact. The only thing they had there that was appropriate finger food while gaming were some vaguely chicken-flavored nugget-shaped pieces of breaded rubber that came with a variety of alleged ‘sauces’. Video game food must be able to be eaten between levels, during room transitions, or during cut scenes. You can’t do that with a steak, folks. That’s what separates the merely good from the truly great. We know how (and what) to eat and play games at the same time. Very few people get to the level I’ve achieved, however. I can play games, eat, and sleep at the same time. It’s how I get so good. During that eight or so hours most lesser gamers waste by merely sleeping every night, I’m honing my skills to the nth degree while I’m getting rested.
Ack! I seem to have gotten distracted. Right. Going home with a carload of ‘almost food’. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. The town I live in is not some kind of gamer’s paradise, believe it or not, so there was very little to hold my interest on the way back. Well, except for that driving thing. When I’m driving, I like to pretend it’s the most realistic driving game I’ve ever played. I only get one life, and I have to get to wherever I’m going without being pulled over by the police. My score is displayed on my odometer, and every time I play, I get a new high score! Rock!
By the time I got back home, I had polished off the chunks of chicken-flavored rubber in the box I got. Fortunately, my neighbors had left their trash can out on the curb from the last time trash was collected so I covertly tossed mine in as I drove by. One less trip outside for me. I’m totally on a roll. After unlocking the door to my house, I found that it had cooled off just enough for me to enter without my armpits exploding into a saline mess.
The first thing I did was to completely shut off crummysocks.com so those freaks from the mall couldn’t leave their malicious comments. Then I realized that nobody could look at my site, so I turned it back on. I decided that I would just have to be hyper vigilant and shoot down the thousands of comments they were surely going to leave.
While I was waiting for the deluge of comments, I decided to pass the time by playing some classic Zelda II (on my super cool Zelda bonus disc for my GameCube) with one of my patented twists. I set up a series of mirrors in the house so I could see my TV screen from down the hall and around a couple of corners. I then could control the action with my Wavebird while I sat upside down in a chair. The catch was that I used an odd number of mirrors so the image I was seeing was backward. Finally, a moderate challenge. I’ve beaten this game six ways to Sunday and I was beginning to think there was nothing I could do that would make it tough. The game was still way too easy, though. I beat it in two hours without even using any magic spells. I think next time I’ll use the same setup and disallow use of the ‘A’ button. That might bump the game up to ‘almost a challenge’.
After I killed Ganon for the hundredth time that day, I went to check the comments. None yet. This has turned into a waiting game. They were waiting for me to go to bed so they could flood the forums with useless comments, taking up precious bits on the server. I love my bits, and I hate to see them wasted like that. I decided that I had to make the first move. I logged into the forums and made a long, excessively detailed post extolling the love I have for my precious bits. The post was about 2,000 words long and took me four hours to write. Right before I hit ‘Submit’, I sneezed and moved the mouse over to the ‘Reset’ button and clicked. Whoops. I didn’t really feel like writing the post over again. Pouring out that kind of emotion really takes a lot out of a guy, so I wrote a smaller, less awesome post that simply said, “I love my bits!” I’m fairly certain my gambit worked. I watched the forums like a hawk for the next three hours waiting for one of them to make a comment, but they never did. The raw emotion I displayed must have sent them into a coma of respect and admiration when they saw it.
At this point it was getting fairly late. I decided that it was time for me to head to bed. I popped some popcorn and set it next to my bed. I then threw Secret of Mana into my Super NES (I haven’t beaten that game in a while) so I could have something to do while I was eating and sleeping and called it a day.
There you have it, a glimpse into my time away from the site. It pretty much went on like that for the next several days. If you want to know what happened on day two or three or whatever, just go back to the top and read this whole thing again.