Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What Kind of Media Consumer am I?

If I were to characterize myself as any particular type of media consumer I would probably call myself a media sniper.

There are people out there that wade in the stream of mass media with reckless abandon, trying to experience everything that the world of entertainment and news has to offer. These are the kinds of people that write their own blogs on a regular basis and maintain their MySpace pages daily. The kind of people who might surf YouTube for the latest clips then flip on the TV to see what is happening on MTV.

I am not that kind of media consumer. I prefer to pick and choose very specific types of mass media to patronize. I don't check my email daily and if it weren't for educational TV I probably wouldn't ever touch my remote. Using the stream analogy, I would be more like a fisherman on the banks. I cast my line into the stream looking to pick out only those types of media that I want. I know what I am looking for and don't waste my time on media that doesn't fit into my criteria. I then reel in my media, gut it, clean it, cook it and ingest it. I don't just experience my media, I dissect it. There are forms of media that I do indulge in and spend most of my media consumption time with. Those, of course, are video games. But even in this form of media I am still highly selective of what I play and I take the time to consider what I am playing. I try to fit whatever game I am playing into my greater knowledge of what video games are and how they effect my life. So for now, I am the lonely sniper on the battlefield of media, choosing who lives and who dies.

YouTube Now Censored For Your Pleasure

New York Times News Article

In what can only be described as a pointless turn of events, YouTube and CBS have decided to add a content filter onto select comments pages. This is a good thing right? Protecting children from some of the hugely profane and degenerate comments on YouTube. Turns out, not so much. The only comments that will be filtered will be the seeds from CBS programming. CBS fears "profane, unconstructive criticism" of their videos. So much for looking out for the common good. Its ok to call someone in a video clip and flaming queer, just as long as you aren't talking about David Letterman.

This move by CBS and YouTube pisses me off to no end. CBS is amassive corporationnn and should be open to criticismm regardless of its nature. This holds especially true when it is held on a site that was created as an open public forum. This a retarded move on YouTube's part. They have portrayed themselves as an open forum for self expression. By selectively protecting a big corporation like CBS, it can only hurt their public image. It turns the site from a utopia of free exchange of ideas to a gulag of corporate control. Good job YouTube for flushing whatever credibility you had down the drain in order to protect a corporation that probably isn't hurt in the least bit by what a twelve year old in Kansas says about "Survivor".

[UPDATE] Ooops

GameSpot News Article
"PS3 Claims First Life"
For those of you who have been following my blog, I wrote some time ago about a student who was shot by sheriffs deputies after they arrived at his house to arrest him for the theft of a PS3.

The deputy, who was fired from his job following the incident, was charged with second-degree murder after trial. Later, the charges against the Deputy because the jury foreman had incorrectly checked the wrong box that would decide Long's fate.

Blu-Ray Wins One

PSU News Article
Blu-Ray has struck back. The battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD is in full swing. Blu-Ray has recently won a major battle. In the world of next-gen formats it is the format that gains the most support from the movie industry is the one who will have the upper hand. In the recent release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest, Disney had an animated advertisement about it's upcoming Blu-Ray titles. This signals Disney's full support of the Blu-Ray format. Here is the list of upcoming movie titles for the Blu-Ray:

- Beauty and the Beast
- Aladdin
- The Lion King
- Finding Nemo
- Snow Dogs
- Father of the Bride
- Sky High
- Remember the Titans
- Herbie: Fully Loaded
- National Treasure
- Around the World in 80 Days
- Pirates of the Caribbean

While not a huge number of titles it is a significant win for Sony and the Blu-Ray. Its all well and good as far as I am concerned. The closer the race between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, the greater the drive to innovate. If one format were to win outright, the need to improve the format would not be as urgent. So go on and even the score Blu-Ray, godspeed and good luck.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Media Giants Plan D-Day Style Invasion

CNET News Article better watch its back. There are people and corporations out there preparing to take it out like a eastern European dictator. YouTube is the most popular video sharing web site out there on the web today. YouTube is a website that offers users a place to post homemade videos, commercials or pretty much what ever videos they might have on their computers. With over 100 million views a day, it is a true powerhouse of internet content. Only a year old, YouTube was acquired by Google back in November for a mere 1.65 billion dollars in stock. That is a pretty good indicator of where the major internet companies think the web is going. It hasn't been all fun a games for the people over at YouTube. copywright infringement is a major problem for a website which basically allows people to post whatever they want. Some media companies have threatened to sue YouTube for copyright infringement while others, including CBS and NBC, have struck licensing deals with the site. So far YouTube has had some competition online but nothing that has truly challenged its position at the top.

As with many things on the web, once one company comes up with something successfully the rest will follow with bigger, shinier products in the hopes of capitalizing on the new paradigm. Well, true to form the rest of the media industry is hot on YouTube's heels. AOL, backed by Time Warner, has already begun launching its own video clip site, and word is that News Corp.'s Fox, Viacom, CBS and NBC Universal are in talks about creating a video Web site to compete with Google's YouTube. With just about the largest media cartel in existence aiming to knock it off its top spot, are YouTube's days numbered?

Personally I wouldn't mourn the loss of YouTube. As someone who doesn't actively watch a lot of TV or surf the internet all that often YouTube just sort of annoys me. Kids ought to be outside doing something rather than surfing YouTube for latest clips. My only hope is that YouTube gets knocked of then the corperations of commercialize and the whole trend goes up in flames. I know that this might sound hypocritical coming from someone who plays videogames on a regular basis, but at least videogames provide human interaction.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Two Disk Enter One Disk Leave

Dark Horizons News Article
The ongoing battle between the next-generation video formats is a well known entity in the world of video games. On one side there is Microsoft, backing the HD-DVD format. On the other, Sony, with the new Blu-Ray. Bother formats provide superior storage space and file quality to the current DVD format.

The latest punch thrown in this saga is by HD-DVD. According to new market analysis by Cymphonia, HD-DVD is way ahead in public opinion polls. Being favored a whopping 46% more than its blue arch-nemesis. Gamer opinion carries significantly more weight now than it has in the past, with the formats not only being utilized to create movies but also video games. Microsoft has decided to back HD-DVD with an external peripheral for the Xbox 360. In contrast, Sony has decided to create its new PS3 with internal Blu-Ray.

In a strange twist, Sony's decision to include the Blu-Ray in the PS3 is actually hurting the reputation of the format and is actually hurting sales of the system. Apparently gamers would rather have the right to choose which format to use, a decision that Sony has taken away by making the Blu-Ray internal. Also hurting Sony is the added cost of including the Blu-Ray in the PS3. The system is significantly more expensive than its competitors. Price coupled with the new findings that users have found that HD-DVD actually gives better picture quality, doesn't paint a pretty picture for Sony and Blu-Ray.

Ultimately the decision as to which format will prevail is with the movie industry. While video games will have a significant effect on the outcome the ultimate winner will be the format that has the most backing from the movie studios.

Improvements have been made to the Blu-Ray format but these merely bring the quality up to par with HD-DVD, not surpassing it. If Sony and Blu-Ray don't want to be left out in the cold they need to start chalking up some victories before it is too late.

In my opinion, as a gamer, this all angers me. Blu-Ray, on paper is the more powerful technology, HD-DVD has the best programming. I have no allegiances in this case, I only want to see the best gaming platform created.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More Speed is Needed

Engadget News Article
What if I told you that by 2010 that your internet would be moving at 100Gbps? To put that in perspective, your internet runs at around 100Mbs right now. For Those not familiar with techno jargon, Gbps stands for gigabytes per second and Mbps stands for megabytes per second. That means that your internet should be about 1000 times faster in about four years. At least if the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The IEEE sets many of the standards that technology is kept to. IEEE has voted to move forward on making 100Gbps, not the rumored 40Gbps, the standard speed by the year 2010. With more people taking advantage of downloadable media and Web 2.0 applications networks are being clogged and it is already apparent that a much higher speed internet is needed. While it may sound like a an uphill battle, IEEE feels that this is something that will be achieved and should be in your neighborhood by 2009 or 2010. Many of the technical geniuses behind this initiative believe that the next stage of development should go quite smoothly but that the public shouldn't expect a finalized protocol till 2009 at the earliest. The biggest challenge facing the IEEE is the need for larger fiber-optic pipelines to allow such high speed transfers of information.

It is hard to imagine such speed over a network. 100Gbps conjures mental images of downloads completing before my finger leaves the mouse button. With such high speeds, the internet could gain such functionality never before imagined. Being able to download whole movies in seconds. Craziness. Pure craziness.

Tough Love

Gamespot News Article
Ever get that one Christmas present under the tree that you knew exactly what it was? Was it ever the kind of present that you could not wait to open? Did you ever break the rules and open it early even though you knew you were going to get in huge trouble? I have and I got a good lesson in the spirit of Christmas from my dad's belt. I thought he was being overly harsh on me at the time but now that I have seen what he could have done to me I know that I got off easy. In Rock Hill, SC a 12 year old boy was arrested when his mother discovered that he had opened a gift early and called the police. The boy, knowing that his Grandmother had sent him a Gameboy Advance for Christmas decided to open it early. When confronted by his mother about the present that had disappeared from under the tree he firmly denied knowing about the location of the portable gaming device. Only after his mother threatened to call the police did the youth own up to taking the Gamboy. Well, as a lesson, his mother called the police anyway and had him sent to jail where he was charged with petty larceny. Luckily for the young lad he was juvenile and as such didn't have to spend any time in jail. When reached for a comment about why she had her own son arrested, the mother merely stated that she was helping her son who had a history of disorderly conduct, further stating,"He's the type of kid who doesn't believe anything until it happens,". Ouch.

Halo is Coming to the Big Screen

Seattle Times News Article
Let that sink in for a second. Thanks to my lovely classmate Nicole for reminding me of that there is indeed a movie adaptation of Halo on the way. Halo, arguably the best shooter franchise of all time, is on its way to Hollywood. If you are someone who has been following my posts I hold this franchise in high esteem. I have an extremely difficult time thinking of any activity I have spent more time doing in my life than playing Halo, and that includes sleeping. Microsoft has paid Alex Garland, writer of "28 Day Later", to write a screen adaptation to Halo. Microsoft then turned around and sold the script to Paramount Studios for a reported 10 Million dollars. This is a smart move both by Paramount and Microsoft since Halo is almost already guaranteed cult status. Part of what makes Halo great for movies is that the game was one o the first in a generation of games to bring a truly cinematic experience to the industry. The game played like a movie and was entertaining for more than just the visceral experience of shooting aliens. The decision to write their own script and present it to the movie studios is an unusual one for a tech company in the movie industry. This is a smart move on Microsoft's part because it allows them to ensure that the movie does not dilute the Halo brand. Gamers are very particular about how movie adaptations of video games should be. A mistake that has been made by many studios when creating adaptations is that they do not stay true to the video game. Movies such as these usually flop where movies that stay true to the mythos of the franchise do well. The decision to make the Halo movie is massive news for gamers. Besides the new addition to the Halo universe and mythos that this movie represents, it also represents vindication on the part of gamers everywhere. This is a chance for the die hard fans and fanatics of Halo to stand proud and say,"See? We aren't crazy. This stuff is really cool." It is a chance for the rest of the world to see why gamers get so drawn into the stories and universes created in games. Ultimately video game movies are inconsistent at the box office. Movies that have been loved by the gamer community have flopped where as others that are meet with ambivalence shoot to the top of the charts. One movie might do terribly but its sequel might be a smash. Only time will tell. In my opinion it would be preferable for Halo to reach cult status than box office success. I would rather the movie stay true to the Halo mythos than sell out for money.

Is Violence Messing with My Brain?

MTV News Article
Doctor Vincent Mathews had some sobering news for gamers everywhere. Violent video games change the way your brain works. In the past when faced with these kinds of claim gamers have brushed them off as propaganda. What makes this test different, at least in the eyes of gamers, is that it has been approved by Mathews's toughest critics, his video gaming sons. For the past two years Mathews has been pitting a wide range of teens against two games which supposedly represent the two ends of the spectrum as far as violence goes. The first is a First Person WW2 shooter called "Metal of Honor:Frontlines" the other is a street racing game known as "Need for Speed Underground". After short periods of game play some 40 test subjects were give functional MRI scans to see which parts of the brain were most active after playing violent and non-violent video games. After analysis Mathews found that those gamers playing the violent video game showed more activity in an area of the brain long believed to be associated with emotional arousal, while showing a decrease in activity in areas of the brain associated with executive functions. Executive functions are the ability to plan, shift, control and direct ones thoughts and behavior. In laymans terms, violent gaming turns the gamer into a caveman.

Mathews has not determined the long term effects of violent gaming, but his study will certainly add fuel to the growing national debate over violence in video games. For the last two years, U.S. politicians have tried to pass laws that would ban the sale of explicit, violent games to minors, and almost all of those laws have been defeated in the courts. The courts have cited a lack of reliable scientific evidence demonstrating that games cause any greater physical harm than other forms of entertainment protected by the First Amendment.

The question in every gamers mind right now is where the funding for this study has come from. It is well known that studies tend to fall on the side of whoever is providing the money. Sometimes this is done purposefully and sometimes it is just the subliminal desire to pleas ones benefactors but it is a generally accepted notion that a study is only as reliable as the organization that paid for it. This particular study costing around $650,000 has been backed by the Center for Successful Parenting, whose Web site advises parents to make sure their children are not "gamewashed" by violent games.

While I cannot say for sure that the findings of the study are reliable or not, it does seem very convenient that this study confirms everything that the organization funding it already believes to be true.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Shooters to Look for in 2007

I am a gamer. For the un-initiated, that means that I commit myself to a lifestyle of playing video games. As with any gamer I have my preferences as to how I spend my time in front of a television. I have many genres of video games that I play but there is one that is chief among them. The FPS (First Person Shooter) is perhaps the most popular genre in video games and is easily my personal favorite. An FPS is a style of game where the player wields guns from the perspective of the avatar, the digital representation of a player, the first person perspective. So, in recap, the player shoots things from the first person perspective, hence, First Person Shooter. I am a product of the Tom Clancy generation of first person shooters. To clarify, gamers are usually products of the games that they played when developing into mature players. The generation before me were products of the video game Doom, preferring to play all out shoot fests with high kill counts. I am part of a generation of gamers brought up playing tactical scenerios, preferring to play team based combat where good teamwork and tactics are the name of the game.

So after that very lengthy and precise explanation of who I am and what I look for in games. Here are the FPSs to look forward to in the upcoming year.

The first game on my list is something of an unknown. It doesn't hail from an esteemed line of video games and it is being hyped as a genre bender. It is being billed as a mix between the FPS genre, first person action and role playing. It leaves everyone anticipating what it could possibly be. The graphics even at this early stage are top notch. The scripts that have been released are all intriguing and leaves me with only two questions about the release of the game. Should I pre-order or should I camp out to buy it?

2)Half-Life 2
The latest sequel to the Half-Life series. Half-Life is a proven powerhouse in the FPS arena. This sequel looks to deliver on the strengths of the franchise while adding its own depth to the series. The beauty of the game is that it is being released in a format that is more than capable to play it. So the designer has decided to create an enhanced version of the game. Thumbs up to that.

3)HALO 3
Um.....Yes. This is the possible end all, be all of first person shooters. Both Halo and Halo 2 revolutionized FPSs as the world knows them. That's all I have to say about that. Halo 3 is going to be so huge that it might possibly give me an aneurysm. End of story.

Taking a Look at the Next Sellout

MTV News Article
The rap and hip-hop industry is rife with in-fighting. Name calling, shit talking, pretty much anything goes when it comes taking out your anger on another artist. Rappers don't care whether they bad mouth rivals in the media or let their music do the talking. Damn near whole albums have been created with the purpose of either responding to critics or criticizing other artists.

A rapper famous these kind of shenanigans is the rapper 50 Cent. He criticized fellow rapper Ja Rule for singing R&B. Well, it is looking like 50 Cent is as fearless when dealing with hypocrisy as he is when dealing with bullets.

50 Cent has gone through the almost inevitable change from being the hungry, aggressive up and comer to comfortable veteran. What has he done as a fat cat? That's right, R&B. supposedly he has been inspired by old Motown artists such as smoke Robinson.

Fans have had mixed views about this turn of events. Some are looking forward to a new side of Mr. Cent. Others are calling him out. They want the music that made him what he is, not the kind of music he denounced publicly. What do I think about Cent singing R&B? The title of my post says it all.

Sex is Going Mobile

CNET News Article
Throw away your old-fashioned pornography. Everything the pornography industry has to offer is available now on your cell phone.

According to porn industry analysts The Jupiter Group's report, cell phone porn will be worth $3.3 Billion dollars by 2011. According to Jupiter, technological advances in telephony will cause the adult industry to explode in popularity with cell phones.

"Erotic adult entertainment is big business--sex sells! What's more, the underlying drivers mean that the demand is pretty constant," the report's author, an important financial genius, noted.

Why does it have to be that every new advancement in mass media technology has it roots in pornography? With the possible exception of the printing press that first created mass produced bibles(how's that for a dichotomy?), many of the forms of mass communication have benefited greatly from the human need to look at naked women. I guess that says something about our priorities. The real question is whether or not naked women are that interesting that we have to continually come up with new ways to look at them.

US Diplomacy Reduces IPod's Customer Base by One News Article
Apparently the Bush administration's new strategy for dealing with North Korea is not working so great. The solution? Personally aggravate the unstable and un predictable dictator that runs the country. The question is how? Usually when put in this position the US resorts to its favorite form retribution, the trade ban. Usually these bans include materials and items that could be used in building military programs. What has Bush decided to ban the sale of in North Korea? IPods. That's right, you don't have something crazy in your eye, you read correctly. IPods. To be fair, that is an oversimplification of the ban. They also banned the sale of: cognac, Rolex watches,cigarettes,artwork,expensive cars,Harley Davidson motorcycles and personal watercraft, such as Jet Skis. All the things a growing military needs as part of a balanced diet. Oh, don't forget the musical instruments, wouldn't want to forget those. Here, is the kicker. In an economically stagnant country there are few people who can even begin to afford products such as these. This basically means that the Bush administration, like a stern parent, took a look at Kim Jong Il's Christmas list and said, "You've been naughty, maybe next year buddy." We are talking about a man who managed to build a nuclear bomb....That's it, no punchline here. Maybe, just maybe, he has the resources to obtain IPods no matter what Bush says. If you couldn't stop him from building the bomb, how could you, as a rational human being, believe that you have the power to stop Kim from buying consumer electronics?

that's all I have to say about this. My brain hurts.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Play Station 3 Claims its First Life

News Observer Article
Gamers are no strangers to death. We deal with death on a daily, or more usually, nightly basis. We pit ourselves against each other in combat with the loser heading to the graveyard. So, all of this takes place in cyberspace,but it doesn't make it any less dramatic.

Well, sadly the release and hysteria that followed the release of the Play Station 3. On Dec. 3rd, In Wilmington, North Carolina sheriff's deputies shot 18 year old Peyton Strickland. They were serving an arrest warrant for Strickland and his roommate for the theft of two PS3's in November.

Rather than slapping the cuffs on the man, cops opened fire. No one is really sure why.

The suspect's roommates, report that the Strickland was unarmed, and that there was an argument at the door between Strickland, a welder and student at Cape Fear Community College, and the deputies. Also slain: Strickland's German Shepard, Blaze.

The authorities are investigating the shooting.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cross Promotion Gone Wild
The King is everywhere these days. You never know when you're going to turn on the TV or wake up in the morning and see the gargantuan melon of Burger King's royal front man. Recently, the King has made his way onto my beloved Xbox 360. Burger King has apparently released a three headed beast of burger themed gaming on the online component of the Xbox 360, known as Xbox Live. These mini games are a follow up to Burger King's recent ad campaign featuring "The Burger King" appearing in unusual places handing out burgers to unsuspecting people. With the success of the campaign burger King has tried to expand its reach by creating purpose build video games.

In the past there have been many product placements by the fast food industry in video games, but Burger King is the first to aggressively create and market games made for the purpose of advertising.

Here comes the shocker. As a video gamer, I am highly disturbed by this. Every time some gimmick comes along, and is successful, it leads to scores of copy-cats. The industry already has problems with a lack of watered down content. If this marketing is successful for burger King, it could be a precursor to the deluge of shallow gaming to follow.

Defining an Era

In the video game world there are significant milestones by which the industry measures itself. There was the creation of the 8-bit and 16-bit machines which both ran on cartridge. Then came Sony and Sega and the ill fated gaming platform Jaguar released by Atari that took the gaming experience from the cartridge to CD. These were the first true "next-gen" platforms. These systems worked on the 64-bit processor and were light years ahead of the systems that they replaced. To be fair to the cartridge era machines and any gamers still loyal to the classic forms of gaming, there was one notable 64-bit machine running on cartridges known as the Nintendo 64. A great and venerable platform but ultimately behind the times. Then came the following generation of platforms. Dominated first by the Playstation 2 and followed by the notable entrance of software giant Microsoft into the gaming industry with the XBox platform. These too have been eclipsed by a new generation of machines, the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.

There are also milestones in content. Pac Man, Mario Brothers, Zelda, Virtua Fighter, Mortal Combat. These are some of the examples of games that defined the gaming experience for their platform. Sometimes however there are gamers that are so huge that all subsequent games are measured against them. Quake, Half-Life, Madden, all of these games reshaped the experience of gaming, taking the industry in new directions. Possibly the most notable of all the milestone games created in recent years is Halo. As any gamer ought to be able to tell, I am a XBox gamer. Released in 2001, Halo destroyed all before it with superior graphics and content. Since then Halo's competitors have tired their hardest to produce what is now known in the industry as a "Halo Killer", to no avail. Here is some added perspective as to how great Halo was, the next generation of super powerful, super detailed games are here and there are still more people playing the Halo franchise online then just about any other platform game out there.

Past milestones are great and everything but what gamers are really looking for is the next big fork in the road. That fork is possibly here. The game: Gears of War. It has been billed as one of the most significant piece of content for the new generation of platforms and has lived up to the hype (something sadly rarely done in the industry). It manages to take the spatial awareness of a third person shooter and add the visceral experience of a first. That might not sound like a big deal to those who are not into video games, but one of the perennial problems with shooters is that in first person shooters the gamer looses some of the feeling of being immersed in the environment due to the lack of ability to interact with it. In the third person view the gamer looses the experience of being the character, acting more like they are watching someone else fight the enemy rather than themselves. By blending the two genres effectively, Gears of War creates a level of gamer immersion never before seen. As with all landmark games, time will tell whether Gears of War is really genre bending or just a hint of things to come.

Don't Worry I Am Still Alive

If anyone has been reading my blog or even just checking to see if I a m still alive you may have noticed that I have been MIA for the last month or so. Well after going through some pretty scary personal stuff I am back in the game and hope to make up the ground that I have lost recently. So look forward to multiple posts per day. I have decided that since the blog format has moved from assigned posts to open format during my hiatus, I am going to mostly concentrate on the form of mass media that most effects my personal life; video games. Some might think this is a shallow format for my blog, but stick around and you might learn something about how video games have effected mass media outside of the gaming universe.