Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Nancy Grace

Originally posted at WayIPlay.com

This is a little bit political, but mostly about video games vs. stupidity. It’s partially cross-posted from the general section of an improv bulliten board that the WayIPlayers populate:

Nancy Grace is a former prosecutor from the Atlanta Fulton County DA’s Office and now hosts a self-titled court show on CNN Headline News. She does not seem to understand the constitution, from presumption of innocence to the 4th Amendment.

I’m going to let quotes mostly speak for themselves on this one. I encourage you to follow the links to learn. More. First, from The Daily Howler:

Might cable "news" panels convict someone innocent? They already have, in one high-profile case. That is the case of Elizabeth Smart, in which harpies like Grace "convicted" a man who is now plainly known to have been innocent.

That man, of course, is Richard Ricci, a convicted felon who had worked as a handy-man in the Smarts' home and fell under King panel suspicion. During the summer of 2002, Grace had Ricci tried and convicted. During the original search for Smart's abductor, Ricci was arrested for other crimes, and regarded by police as a "person of interest." He died of an aneurysm while in jail. At the time that Ricci died, brilliant pundits said he was The One. But with the March arrest of Brian David Mitchell, it is now abundantly clear that Ricci did not abduct Smart.

Predictably, Grace denied all. "As far as Ricci," she said, "I'm not going on a guilt trip and I'm not letting you take the police with me on a guilt trip because Ricci was a convicted criminal in the home and had problems with his alibi since that night, and considering him as a suspect is not unthinkable." Note the way the subhuman Grace tried to pretend that the police had been challenged.

But of course, Nancy Grace had convicted Ricci of Smart's abduction (and probable murder). From June 2002 to the end, Grace had Ricci in her sights, and every detail seemed to suggest that he had committed the crime. The odometer showed it. The seat covers showed it. The post-hole digger showed it. The dirty car showed it. The second car showed it. The two "accomplices" showed it. Ricci's history as a cat burglar showed it. So did the things Neth Moul had said. Here was one of her edifying exchanges, offered July 11:

CALLER: Hi. Is it possible for the FBI or the law officers involved in the case to use sodium pentothal on Mr. Ricci and find out if he has any involvement with this girl's disappearance? Whether or not it can be used against him after?

KING: Nancy, is that allowed?

GRACE: Oh, how I wish, Larry! Unfortunately, it's not allowed under our Constitution. No sodium pentothal, truth serum, no beating, no torture. We have to wait for Ricci to crack. That's right.

Now (and here we go, back on topic!) she’s set her sights on video games. She had a panel discussion on her own show last week, discussing the upcoming game “25 to Life”. Senator Chuck Shumer (D-NY) recently decided this game was so immoral that it deserved his attention more than terrorism, poverty, or education, and condemned it. He, of course, was a guest. As was the lawyer who has repeatedly tried to make Rockstar Games culpable for murders by kids who played Grand Theft Auto.

Anyway, Grace starts things off with: “A violent video game aimed at our children is all about one thing: Killing cops. It`s called ‘25 to Life.’”

In the first place - aimed at our kids? It’s rated M. It’s not FOR them! Was Goodfellas aimed at our kids? Was Pulp Fiction? I’m over the age of 18, Nancy, why can’t there be hyper-violent games for me? And what’s more (emphasis added):

“This third-person shooter will let you play as either a cop trying to enforce the law or a gangster trying to make his way up in the crime world.” - Gamespot.com Preview (see also, the game’s website)

Idiot.

(For much more on Nancy Grace, check out John Cole of Balloon Juice. She’s a pet project of his. It turns out she’s been occused of all kinds of ethical misconduct from her time as a prosecutor. Apparently she twisted a number of things in pursuit of her own brand of “justice.” Also check out this Washington Post article about Grace. Apparently her interest in criminal prosecution stems from a tragedy in her own past. While I am certainly sorry for her loss, I wish she hadn’t decided to do damage to the public understanding of the justice system. This, I guess, is the closest we get to a Batman.)

Anyway, to start a discussion on violent video games and public policy, here are some thoughts and questions. I believe that designing a video game, like making a movie, is a form of speech protected under the First Amendment, and therefore the “congress shall make no law infringing [it]”. Do I believe little kids should be playing GTA3? No. That’s why we have ratings, and why I have absolutely no problems with the proposed laws that would restrict sales of M-rated games to minors.

Now, I think the retail industry’s already got a policy in place that does exactly that, but the word is that it’s not airtight. While I have seen clerks take a certain pleasure in shooting down 14-year-olds trying to buy God of War, I can’t imagine that all of them are so scrupulous, especially when there are fewer people around in the store. But I see no qualitative difference between how the sale of an M-rated game should be handled, and the sale of an R-rated movie.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Movie Games and Game Movies

Originally posted at WayIPlay.com

I wrote this first bit as a comment to Aric’s “Jaws Unleashed” post below. I’m pulling it out here to try to generate some chatter:

Sadly, Jaws Unleashed is part of a larger pattern in current games of mining older movies for their videogamability. Witness The Godfather, The Warriors, The Great Escape, Scarface, and From Russia With Love. I'm genuinely excited about the latter, and don't give enough of a shit about the Warriors to feel one way or the other. Scarface can only be less fun than GTA Vice City, and turning The Godfather into a video game is an abomination unto the Lord.

Let's make some predictions. What old movies will be turned into video games? I'm asking for serious predictions, so save "Ernest Scared Stupid" for another time.

Mine:
Chinatown
The French Connection
Bullitt
Dirty Harry or The Good the Bad and the Ugly or The Outlaw Josey Wales

So, whaddaya think, WayIPlayers?

On a related note, I read on 1up the other day that German director Uwe Boll has been tapped to direct a film based on the hyperviolent Postal series of PC games. Boll is the man responsible (liable?) for the awful adaptations of video games House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark (the latter a Christian Slater / Tara Reid vehicle!).

A look at his upcoming filmography is instructive: Bloodrayne, Dungeon Seige, Fear Effect, Far Cry. Why, it seems that Boll is in a race with Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator) for who can make the most shitty movies based on video games.

Last year Warner Bros. announced a new policy in which a video game company could be penalized for “damaging the brand” if the game based on a movie gets poor reviews. This was supposedly in reaction to the deservedly bad reviews of Enter the Matrix and Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness (never mind that Tomb Raider was Eidos’ brand to begin with). What if the game companies held movie studios to the same standards? Are there any video game movies that really HELPED their brands? Mortal Kombat, maybe. Tomb Raider, maybe. Wait, oh yeah: Pok√©mon.

Also in the news this week: Microsoft has been shopping around the Halo movie with a stipulation that the studio that produces it must stick to Bungie’s “Bible” of plot and character for the franchise. This is a savvy move on Bungie’s part — here’s hoping the stipulation stands and that the film doesn’t land in Uwe or Paul WS’s inbox.

UPDATE: When I was looking for video-game-based movies on IMDB, I found a lot that are in the works that I didn’t know about. Here’s a list of those, for you all to shake your head over: Carmen Sandiego, Crazy Taxi (what?), Deus Ex, Doom, Driver, Metroid, Silent Hill, Spy Hunter, Tekken.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Break Yo'self!

Originally posted at WayIPlay.com

Although I already own it for PS2, I do believe I’ll be getting Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for PC. In the first place, it stands to be prettier and to avoid the drawing glitches of the original. In the second place, I am useless at aiming with an analog stick. These are my PC shooter roots showing, folks: I still naturally reach for the mouse and WASD when I sit down at a computer.

When I played GTA:SA last fall, I got hopelessly stuck on the “Just Business” mission (pictured), in which a bunch of Russians on bikes pursue you through the LA River, just like in 30% of all action movies ever. Then a car carrier careens off an overpass, suggesting T2 in particular. Anyway, I played this mission about ten times, never successfully completing it. I got a little better, and then progressively worse, all because I couldn’t aim for crap. So now I can correct one of my major gaming failures of last fall. Now if only there was a “make headcrabs less like spiders” patch for Half-Life 2.

In related news, word came round last week that one particular prefecture in Japan had banned the sale of GTA:SA to minors. Stateside, a similar law is pending in Illinois. Rockstar of course isn’t happy about this, since it represents the possibility of losing some sales. But only maybe. In the US, most of the major retailers already will not sell M-rated games to kids under 17, so from a business standpoint, the law is moot.

In general, I don’t really get why regulating M-rated sales to minors is a big deal. To me, the situation is exactly analagous to R-rated films. If a 16-year-old can’t go see Menace II Society without a parent, he shouldn’t be able to buy GTA. Now, the one difference here is that while the ESRB, like the MPAA, enacted a ratings system, the stores were a little slower to decide that M-rated games shouldn’t be sold to minors, whereas the movie theaters enforced R ratings immediately. So now the politcal pressure is on.