Monday, September 30, 2013

By Jamaal Ryan

Sorry for the late post folks. Between moving and watching Breaking Bad's series finale (could have been better), I missed the week's updates by a day.

Let’s take a looking at a week in gaming from 9/23/13 to 9/27/13. This past week has had some interesting news about gaming and parenthood. Below is a feature about one mother's decision to purchase GTA V for her 13 year old son, and what other gamer parent's perspectives are one violent video games for their children.

Note: My review on GTA V could come as early as next week's updates, however it'll be without GTA Online's coverage which is set to launch tomorrow.

Kinect's justifications was also one of TGS's weirdest games (9/23)

This past Tokyo Game Show was large in part another celebration of the Playstation brand in many ways, from the Vita TV to the many titles announced for its platforms. However one of the show’s standout games wasn’t only an Xbox One exclusive, but a Kinect title: D4.
Much like some of the known-by-name games seen at the show, D4 came back with a return showcasing, following its brief announcement at E3 earlier this year. We now know more about the Kinect powered title from the minds that brought you one of the worst/oddly brilliant titles current gen, depending on how you look at it.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, stars David (I’m sure the name was dee-liberate), a detective who solves crimes with his ability to access the past by touching mementos. Certain actions will have David imitate your gestures such as touching your temple to activate his Vision ability which draws your attention to certain objects, and splashing water in his face to replenish his usage of it. Fight scenes warrant quick simple gestures such as those seen all the way back at E3 like broad arm swipes.
D4 doesn't hold back from Swery's strange imagination either with fights on a plane involving using mannequin limbs to play combat baseball, and strange women dressing and acting like bunny rabbits. It’s a bizarre game of Sweryian proportions, and it probably wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for Xbox Ones coming packed with a Kinect in every box.
Kudos to Microsoft for sticking to their guns and not spinning another 180 by pulling the sensor out of the SKU after taking away the Kinect requirement for system operation. Kinect is a valuable part of the Xbox One platform, not only because the operating system considers it, but it incentivizes developers to incorporate its functionality. The original Kinect was a success on 360, churning up some exclusive software, but those publishers took a big risk – in light of an assumed generous payment from Microsoft – because not every system would ever have a Kinect companion.
But as part of the Xbox One’s platform, developers can take the unit into consideration; we’ve already heard of some developers thinking of incorporating them into their controller primary games such as Battlefield 4. Granted, this is a present day advantage; who’s to say that the console itself won’t ship on its own in the future?
D4 isn’t Kinect only as it’s also compatible with the regular controller. But even though Swery and his team are odd fellas, if a Japanese developer is looking to lead their software with Kinect on Xbox One, it’s a hopeful sign that future publishers and developers (a special mention for independent developers with Microsoft’s indie change of heart) will come up with more creative titles for the Xbox platform.
A game about a runaway slave and her baby (9/24)
The level opens with a mother holding her crying baby as she pulls it close to her chest, whispering that familiar “Shh Shh Shh Shh…” in a motherly tone trying to softly quiet her child. You have to admire her maternal resolve as she’s a runaway slave.
Isaura, we’ll call her, presses forward into the rainy forest with baby in arms in standard 2D platform affair until she faces her first obstacle. Think Limbo-like encounters as she must solve small puzzles in order to continue her escape. She must free her hands to clear the path, so she puts her baby down on the ground. The lack of warmth from its mother’s arms upsets the child, and then starts to cry. Isaura clears the way and picks up the one thing that has motivated her to embark on this venture and continues on.
Thralled, an iOS side scrolling puzzle, began as a student project from the University of Southern California’s Interactive Media & Games Division by Miguel Oliveira and now his small team. It tells a specific story within the era of slavery in Portuguese Brazil in the 1700s.
It’s a profoundly important project, willing to create an period experience around one of the world’s most controversial subjects that also happens to be several hundred years old; though it must not be forgotten that modern day slavery is alive and well with well over 20 million slaves today.
As gamers and game developers alike get older, we begin to see titles thematically discuss the idea about parenthood. Popular games such as The Walking Dead Season One and The Last of Us to smaller and more direct titles such as That Dragon, Cancer live outside of game mechanics and ignite that aching sense of protection.
"Who can understand slavery if you have not been through that kind of an experience? But everyone can understand the bond between a mother and her child and so that is the link between us and the slavery experience," Olivera says. Thralled very much has that relatable potential.
Last month I had the experience of watching Fruitvale Station (spoilers through till the end of the next paragraph), and the moment when Oscar Grant was shot in the back drove a double edged parental sword into our hearts. With blood dripping from his lips, he repeated, “I have a daughter! I have a daughter!” Fast forward to the scene at the hospital where his mother had the heart breaking moment of seeing her son’s corpse on the table and her chest caved in, everyone understood her pain.
My girlfriend and I were the only two Black people in the theater, and yet Oscar’s dying thoughts of leaving behind a fatherless daughter and his mother mourning his death struck everyone else to tears.
Though slavery, particularly Black slaves, is engraved in the history of those from African Decent, a story about a mother trying to save her child is universal. Thralled is completely funded but still needs staffing to complete the development, and it has my best wishes for its App Store release.
Sources: KotakuPolygon
Nope, Fuck You. You're banned from playing video games (9/25)
The mother of Jeffery Ehlers reports that her seventeen year old son was screaming obscenities at his television who was losing to a particular Playstation 3 video game. She goes on in adding that she asked him to stop, and threatened that she’ll take the console away from him. After his alleged refusal, she unplugged the system (She must have played GTA V and after seeing Michael smash his son’s TV, thought that this was a good idea… violent video games elicits bad parenting).
Expectedly, yet unfortunately, her statements report that Jeffery loses his temper, shoving her, throwing objects and slamming doors. After being arrested and taken to the Racine County court in Wisconsin to be charged with disorderly conduct, the judge issues an order. Jeffery’s punishment: possible 90 days in jail if convicted, and he will be banned from playing video games.
There are so many questions to ask here:
Was this Jeffery’s first outburst, or has he demonstrated temper tantrums in the past?
Likely not. A young man that age may have started showing signs of troubles controlling his anger before he hit puberty.
If this was a repeated incident, had the mother thought of addressing the issue by seeking professional intervention?
Depends. Children respond differently to different styles of intervention which is based on different factors. Most therapeutic treatments for teenagers are non-consensual, meaning that the parent requested therapy, not the child. Also, a child’s social skills can influence their response to therapy. If they’re not very verbal, then a face-to-face interaction might not have been the best course of action. Some respond better to therapy while taking walks or with low stimulating activities.
Has Jeffery only lost his temper playing video games?
I’m willing to bet not. Anger doesn’t just generate around a specific activity. The mother may notice it more when he’s playing video games simply because it’s the only arena where he’s competitive, or she may have a biased fixation to the point that she’s much more aware of his behavior playing video games than other activities.
What is the history of the relationship between Jeffery and his mother?
As one who has a complicated relationship with my own mother, I can empathize with Jeff on his frustration in dealing with his mother. Parents can be triggers, igniting a “sore spot” that sets our emotions off. We may be tolerable when our boss or teacher tells us that we’ve lost privilege of something, but the minute our guardian says it, it triggers a reaction in response based on past experiences and our knee jerk expectations.
How long is Jeffery banned from video games for?
This is a valid question. Reports stated that the judge ordered the banning, but is it weeks, months, years?
Can a judge actually ban someone from playing video games?
I’m a licensed social worker, not someone with a degree in law or criminal justice; but I’m willing to bet the answer is no. Video games is a form of media, just like movies, films, music and books. Can someone be banned from reading, watching a flick or a show, or listening certain albums based on unruly behavior? It doesn’t make sense. Especially given the fact that Jeffery is 17, meaning that he is of legal age (legal is a harsh word) to consume M rated games.
In addition, video games aren’t a substance or a proven source of psychological damage; it doesn’t cause explicit harm to players. Having said that, it would make sense if there were stipulations that required him to never touch alcohol, but being banned from playing video games seems a bit too extreme to say the least (note: I have not read if it was a court order. Not sure if there’s a difference between a judge saying that he is banned, or being issued an explicit court order).
The criminal justice system in this country...
...isn’t perfect by any means. I see it with my clients in psychiatric hospitals and out in the community; one of the worst recent examples was the Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh who sentenced former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Rambold to 30 days in prison after raping a 14 year old girl who later killed herself.
The judgment calls by these “judges” are troubling, seemingly rooted in biases and personal beliefs. Jeffery Ehlers needs help, but this Wisconsin judge might need a new profession.
Source: WISN 12 News
VIA: Kotaku
WTF Knee Jerk: Valve's Steam Controller (9/27)
First, shut up about Half-Life 3. It ain’t happenin’
Valve has had a series of announcements this past week including their Steam OS and their hardware partnerships. But they left a visually tangible (I’ll pretend that’s an adjective) and easily conceptual reveal for last, the Steam Controller. The owl jokes are warranted, it’s a strange looking piece of hardware. Concave clickable track pads, clickable touch screen in the center, which is boxed in by your formerly traditional ABXY now manning its four corners.
After looking at the concept design and the actual photos, I immediately picked up a 360 controller, regarded as the most ergonomic controller of all time, and pictured it in my hands. The pads, while missing the firm resistance of traditional analog sticks, could be a vast improvement for precision over our tilting “thumb-chairs”. The size of the bowl looks to cradle thumb movement enough while offering potentially more sensitivity for – and I hate to be a traditionalist – genres like shooters.
The mapped out ABXY doesn’t seem like a bad idea either. We’ll have to reteach ourselves, sure, but they’re within enough reach from the thumb pads to avoid odd contortions. The touch screen that sits at the center of the 4 buttons can be serviceable, giving a larger surface than the DualShock 4’s touch pad with visual feedback.
My only issue, and rather large one, is the absence of a D pad. We can immediately think of equipment management that can be pulled from the D Pad to the touch screen. But even that within itself requires longer travel than what I’m comfortable with. But more crucially is the exclusion of 2D style games which are always better with a D Pad. Looking at the Steam Controller, there doesn’t seem to be any comfortable way of playing these types of games.
That was my knee jerk reaction, happening well before the “haptic feedback” and “resonant actuators” jargon sinks in. Valve’s partnerships, OS, and even this controller interest me, however it’s the hardware itself that raises the other brow. Xi3, maker of the allegedly former Steam supporting Piston announced at CES 2013, is set to make announcements this upcoming week week. Who knows if Valve and Xi3 have reunited again, but I’m just looking for a console style PC in which I swap out cards like they’re SNES cartridges.
A Week in Gaming Special Feature:
This woman bought GTA V for her 13 year old son
Originally reported on September 26th 2013
If there’s one game that has ever deserved a hard M, that’s most certainly GTA V. Endless killings of innocent bystanders, prostitution, drugs, and some deeply disturbing content, it doesn’t get more “For 17 and older” than this. But one woman, after some long thought, decided that this will be her 13 year old son’s first violent video game.
Wendy Williams, host of the Wendy Williams show, proudly admits to buying GTA V for her 13 year old son. Part of her justification can be troubling to some, as she concerns herself with “Little Kev” looking like a freak and a weirdo for not having the cool game (though she completes her point by adding that she’s taking responsibility in keeping an eye and the activities that her son and his friends engage in). Her point was well criticized as another co-host on the panel calls her out for jeopardizing the parenting values of other children who are present in her house playing GTA V. But despite her wanting her kid to be cool and enabling other kids to go home and complain to their parents, “But Kev’s mom got him GTA V!”, Wendy is well aware of the content in this game, and invests their trust as his parents in knowing him enough that they believe he can handle this very mature game.
GiantBomb’s Vinny Caravella was asked if he will expose his son to children’s games or mature games, considering that their content will be more realistic than today’s games, if he’s ready for mature games. The question answered itself, but Vinny’s answer was concrete yet profound. He simply answered, “Then he plays those games.” He elaborates the importance of making a judgment call based on the child’s individual personality. And while he doesn’t belittle the ESRB age appropriation, he points out that maturity of the child is what matters.
Yup, she's ready.
Father of four boys, Colin Campbell – formerly of IGN who now writes for Polygon – wrote his own advice in being a video game parent. His first rule presented a stark difference between parents like Wendy who know exactly what they’re buying their children, and those that just don’t care. As much as we gamers are informed consumers for ourselves, those who are parents should be just as informed of the games they’re allowing their children to play.
About two months ago, I came across a video of a gentleman who responded to accusations of games eliciting violent behavior in children. As a hopeful father in the future, this (non-verbatim) quote will lead how I will raise my children around video games: “I don’t believe games makes kids violent. I do, however, think it’s important to be able to teach kids the difference between video game consequences and real life consequences. Sit down with them and ensure that they understand that this game action isn’t okay in real world society.”
As a former youth counselor for teenagers in a group home, I allowed my kids to play violent games. I often used exposure to video games – even violent ones – as a preventable measure from excessive behavior. Looking at today’s children, it's important to know that they are exposed to far more mature content, both in media and in real life, than many of us were when we were children (for those of us in our twenties and older). They’ve told me stories that I could never imagine myself in when I was their age. Playing Halo or Gears of War changes nothing in their lives. My job was to reinforce good behavior and reprimand bad behavior; violent video games were hardly an influence to these raped, homeless, neglected and battered victims.
You all know what I’m going to say. Monitor your children, study their behavior, make choices based on their ability to separate their super ego from their video game id. Wendy seemed comfortable with it, Vinny looks forward to it, and Colin practices it with his four children. Anytime I hear a parent blame video games for their child’s violent behavior, I ask, “What’s your excuse?”

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