Saturday, June 30, 2007

Manhunt 2: One Sorry Excuse for a Martyr

Manhunt 2, unlike its predecessor, will be a footnote in college textbooks in the years to come.

The game seems to be eliciting two opinions. The first is “It’s disgusting, and I’m glad that it won’t be released, and by the way, I hate video games.” The second is “I’m sick of the government limiting my freedom of expression. [So] I want to play this game. By the way, I hate Jack Thompson.” Predictable responses from those outspoken on the matter.

Manhunt 2 is not simply gaining headlines because it is the first to be denied release in the U.K. by the ratings boards, and one of the first to be given an AO rating in the U.S., severely limiting its distribution. The limits it pushes aren’t just in the type of violence the game can simulate creating, it’s how you, the player interact with that simulation, with the Wii’s new control system factoring in this prominently. The hype of Manhunt 2 is focused around this improved interaction with your murdering character. The previews of it, before the bannings that generated so much publicity, show it planned to be controversial from the get go.

From a preview at “Gouging an enemy's eyeballs with a glass shard, gutting him with a sickle, sucking the life outta him with a plastic bag -- Manhunt's sadistic executions sure did get people's attention. Unfortunately, those gruesome acts also helped get the original game banned in some countries. Lesson learned, right? Pfft -- Rockstar has only cranked up the violence dial for the sequel. And as much as we'd like to say that the gore doesn't impress us (ya know, that'd be the politically correct thing), we couldn't help but want to see more. Some of the new tricks in this game include plunging a syringe into an enemy's heart, or chopping off his head with an ax and then tossing it to distract others in the area. Yet it's the wire cutters that win the prize here: If you perform a level-three execution (just like in the last Manhunt, the longer you wait before attacking, the more grotesque the death blow) with this weapon, you'll reach underneath the enemy to grab on to his family jewels, rip 'em off, and then stick the wire cutters into his back and tear out the spinal cord.”

From a preview at Joystiq: “There is going to be some perverse pleasure about playing this game on the Wii for many, many, reasons. The most obvious being that the Wii's control possibilities could be conceived of as being an interactive murder simulator, and then there's the amazing fact that Nintendo let it happen. But it's all up to the responsiveness of the controls that will determine the sick pleasure factor.”

From a preview at Gamespot: “Once inside the club, the first kill that we were able to pull off was one of the new environmental executions. These occur when enemies are standing next to something that can be used to kill them, such as a rope, a fuse box, or, in this case, a toilet. Our first victim was an unfortunate man in a gimp mask, who had his face introduced to a toilet in a number of painful ways. As well as environmental kills, there are puzzles that require you to dispatch people in certain ways. For example, to gain entry into the torture chamber, you have to show the guard a recognizable face. Predictably, this involves removing someone's head with an axe and then holding it up to the window.”

From a preview at IGN: “Consider for one moment that in Manhunt 2 you can, Wii remote and nunchuk in hands, use a pair of pliers to clamp onto an enemy's testicles and literally tear them from his body in a bloody display; and if that weren't enough, you'll take one of the poor victim's vertebrae along with his manhood. Or, if you'd prefer, you can use a saw blade and cut upward into a foe's groin and buttocks, motioning forward and backward with the Wii remote as you go.”
I am a gamer. I side with gamers. I recognize that the fight against video games is motivated by politicians’ desire for reelection and by the arbitrary standards of various groups and individuals who haven’t really considered video games and what they can potentially do.

It’s ridiculous that a movie can be as bad as Manhunt 2, all elements considered, and still be accessible at theatres by 17 year olds, but a game version will not. Psychological studies, whether you believe them or not (and the opponents of video games do), indict both video games and movies—you can’t get off by saying “oh, a movie doesn’t require participation.” A movie is very much a way of participating. Movies are a powerful influence. But film, as a genre, has finally achieved its recognition as an art form. After the majority of a century, people don’t ask “are movies good or bad”? They ask, “what makes a good movie or a bad movie?” Video games haven’t quite achieved that status yet. If they had, this wouldn’t have happened to Manhunt 2. I wish it didn’t happen to Manhunt 2—not because I like it, but because the real issues have now been thrown at the window and are serving the interests of business. And I’m not talking about Best Buy, Walmart, Sony, or Nintendo. I’m talking about Take-Two and Rockstar.

There shouldn’t be any surprise or uproar over any of this. There should only be eyeball rolling. After Hot Coffee, after all the lawsuits and bad press, after what happened with Manhunt 1, Rockstar persisted in pushing the limits. Take-Two sanctioned it. When it comes to balls, the pain being experienced isn’t by the poor fellow in Manhunt 2 or by Rockstar or Take-Two--it’s by us.

Is Rockstar stirring the pot yet again in order to help our cause of becoming a society that embraces video games, instead of tolerating them? No. They’ve fooled some of us into taking up Manhunt 2 as our poster child, our martyr for our cause. Some will buy it in protest, including some who weren’t going to buy it anyway. To any who do this: you are a tool, and someone is profiting at your expense. Other games have been similarly violent, but not as controversial, and therefore poor-selling, and Rockstar isn’t exempt from this rule. Rockstar is using the controversy to sell a game. That’s all they’re doing.

Take-Two called Manhunt 2 a “piece of art”. I’ve seen games that are a piece of art, and Manhunt 2 is not one of them. Rockstar and its games are not what people think of when getting into the subject of video games as art. A game touted for its ability to redefine how someone can simulate using a knife, phone cord, or pen for killing is not being considered for artistic merit, it’s being considered for its functional ability and entertainment value—and those are the people who want to play it.

Please, for the love of God (or video games, rather), don’t choose Manhunt 2 as your champion or martyr, fellow gamers. Please. This would make Rockstar very happy and the rest of us, if we knew what it meant, very sad. Buy it if you want, but don’t buy it because you are angry.

Do you want present society to eventually embrace video games? Do you want society to stop viewing games and gamers as objects of fear, which must be carefully monitored? Here’s a suggestion: don’t take up as your cause a game that prides itself on the precision with which it enables you to rip off the balls of your enemies. There are plenty of options that are more effective. Whatever happens to Manhunt 2, remember that.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Maybe some things shouldn't make the leap

Did you see this? They apparently are planning on making a Warcraft movie.

I don't know what to think. The film producer, "Legendary", not something or someone I've heard of. Anyone able to find anything? I couldn't.

I'm skeptical.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

The types of gamers you meet—part 3


I derive the name of this one from the reference to World of Warcraft as World of Warcrakc. The Crackhead is a special, often disturbing breed. Like the elitist, the addict is committed to just one game. However, their play style is somewhat different.

The most common example of a crackhead gamer is one that plays World of Warcraft at least 40 hours a week. A raid takes priority over any type of social function. Work and family functions are scheduled around the game.

A crackhead isn’t considered addicted to video games—he is addicted to World of Warcraft. Or Everquest. Whatever it is he happens to play. He doesn’t necessarily consider himself a gamer. He considers himself a guildmate. He considers himself a teammate. He is emotionally and psychologically invested in the game he plays. Occasionally there is some crossover—elitists who are in fact crackheads, but rarely.

Those who are truly crackhead gamers are the ones that even elitists or renaissance gamers feel uncomfortable around. This guy plays games so often that even other gamers who play 30 hours a week and consider video games their top passion feel like the person likes video games too much. Sometimes other gamers are even intimidated by or feel pity for the crackhead, because the passion is shared but it is affected the crackhead’s live negatively (in the opinion of anyone who is not a crackhead).

Where they hang out: Azeroth, Norrath, Team server, Ventrilo, their rooms.

Examples of Games played: World of Warcraft, Everquest, other MMOs, and occasionally Counter Strike

What they talk about: stuff they’ve seen while playing games, people they play games with, something that happened while playing games, World of Warcraft videos they watched while flying on flight paths, guild politics, future patches, arguing about race, class, factions, bugs in the game they play, equipment they’ve recently picked up.


Your domestic gamer is the kind that most people don’t consider a “gamer”, but plays games a good deal nonetheless.

Domestic gamers have little to no interaction with any of the above groups. For them, a video game is a solitary thing, not something that needs to be talked about or even done with other people. Like assembling difficult puzzles, perhaps.

Domestic gamers include moms, grandmothers and other seniors, and parents. Places of play include senior citizen centers, libraries, work, and home. These are people who play family friendly, low-budget, high-replay value games. They constitute a significant minority of the buying power in the video game market.

Whenever they talk about some supposedly impressive number about how many females or people over the age of 35 play video games, they’re talking about domestic gamers. To all the other groups above except Mr. DI, who doesn’t care, domestic gamers are not gamers.

Where they hang out: church, playgrounds, schools, bridge club, bingo, libraries, family amusement centers, and especially home.

Examples of Games played: anything on Yahoo!, Solitaire and other card games, Freecell, Minesweeper, Bejeweled 1 and 2, Chess, online games, whatever their kids are playing that is rated T and under (even WoW, sometimes).
What they talk about: kids, grandkids, work, school and PTA-type stuff, neighborhood and family gossip, politics, and whatever they are interested in.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

The types of gamers you meet—part 2

More types of gamers:


Your renaissance gamer is a category rarely recognized, even by themselves, but one that actually exists nonetheless. The renaissance gamer enjoys a variety of gaming experiences. This person may play Defense of the Ancients for Warcraft 3 occasionally in his free time and yet will play Tetris on his mobile phone at a long line at the office (something an elitist would never do—that would distract him and possibly compromise his l33t CS skills).

Your renaissance gamer is another who, at times, considers himself a true gamer. While he appreciates the elitist’s view of perfection, skill, and the quality of a specific game, the renaissance gamer tries new games, new consoles, and occasionally takes a break from the typical games he plays and “relaxes” by playing a low-pressure game on Yahoo! Games or by playing a vintage game on the old SNES he has hooked up (or the SNES emu on his computer)

Your renaissance gamer has tried almost everything and has mixed opinions. He holds no allegiances except to the fact that he enjoys playing games. Renaissance gamers rarely formulate into groups because they can’t become serious enough about the same game at the same time. However, a lot of renaissance gamers play World of Warcraft of another MMORPG in order to have a group to play one game consistently with. Still, many are solitary and play single player, multiplayer, old, new, console, PC, mobile phone, and handheld games all at the same time, or in a rotation.

Where they hang out: anywhere, but they are introverted, and spend a lot of time at home and/or on the Internet

Examples of Games played: All games, especially quality and high-sales games for the PC and console.

What they talk about: video games, technology, science fiction and fantasy novels, movies, funny videos they’ve seen on Youtube.

Mr. Disposable Income

Mr. Disposable Income is a rare breed that may increase as the years go by. A typical Mr. DI is a guy who was a casual gamer and has recently come into a sweet, lucrative job in business somewhere. Because of the need to feel up on pop culture, being able to relate to clientele, and provide entertainment for guests, he buys every single console on the market. He has a Playstation 3, an Xbox 360, and a Wii (he has connections). If he’s heard someone so much as sneeze a game’s name in a conversation at a party or on the subway, he owns it. Maybe, because he feels like it, he’ll own some game he hasn’t heard of. He hasn’t beaten many of them and he doesn’t value them.

Mr. DI is one of those guys who drops off a million games at the game stores so he can get new ones. He is also the first to sell his console on Ebay once it starts to get old. Or his computer.

This guy isn’t so much a gamer, per se, as someone who happens to own and occasionally play video games.

Where they hang out: Barbecues, work parties, regular parties, clubs, restaurants

Examples of Games played: See casual gamer

What they talk about: Marketing, whatever he does for work and what you do for work, networking, whatever the person he is talking to is interested in, kids, miscellaneous


Monday, June 11, 2007

The types of gamers you meet—part 1

There are a lot people who consider themselves video game players, but the word “gamer” means different things to different people. Here are the different kinds of “gamers” you may meet.


On the Internet, there is a narrow demographic of gamers who are elitists. They consider themselves the only true gamers, and any other form of video gaming is beneath them.

Elitists play very few different games, often no more than three. In fact, many only play one, citing their game as the one and true game of gamers. The only kinds of games holy enough for Elitists to commit themselves to are FPS and RTS games, or mods of the same The main reason they play games is to compete with other gamers, and anyone who does so for other reasons and they play it so often that their games often have a chess-like quality to them—the best opening move and best counter-move to the best opening move become universal standards. When a build order or timed grenade becomes out of fashion and someone continues to use said build order or grenade spot they are cited as n00bs, presumably because of lack of dedication. While they exist almost solely online—the success of Halo and Halo 2, along with XBox live, has led to EZs cropping up amongst console gamers.

Where they hang out: Internet Cafes / LAN centers, MiRC channels,, Xfire, forums of professional gaming leagues

Examples of games played: Counterstrike (either), anything with the words “Unreal”, “Halo”, “Quake”, or “Craft” in it

What they talk about: Hacking, cheaters, patches, balance of the game, mods, teams, replay videos, trash-talking, computer specs, gaming leagues, n00bs, why their game is better than some other game or all other games, and anything to establish how cool the individual person is.

The Casual Gamer

The casual gamer is your every man’s man who has played video games at one point or another. Your typical male under the age of 30 that lives in the United States has likely been to a Halo party, played a variety of consoles, owned a console, and played games at every age and in a variety of circumstances. However, this player has never played any game excessively, and he probably hasn’t played consistently with anyone online. He may have purchased a computer game or three, and he’s probably beaten a few games in his day.

The casual gamer has other interests, and can recognize the skill that more serious gamers possess when they come up against them. Some casual gamers consider themselves pretty good, having only played other casual gamers, for the most part. They rarely talk about games and they don’t consider it an important or top hobby; rather, it’s just another thing to do, like watching movies.

Where they hang out: all kinds of places. Casual gamers represent a broad base of people with a large variety of interests. They are almost undetectable.

Examples of Games played: Sports games, Halo, Mario Kart, Call of Duty

What they talk about: social life, sports, jobs, women, the current game’s match—while playing.

Stay tuned for part 2.