The End of a Rant

It’s been a rough couple of months for videogames and new media. Everything from SOPA threatening the freedom of the internet and OccupyWallStreet making a mockery of my generation, to Dr. Phil making sure parents think videogames cause violence for a couple more years and the advent of the duckface.

The power of Christ compels you! THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!

But we all have one advantage over the forces that are trying to limit our freedom of expression: our freedom of expression. The very thing that is being threatened is our greatest asset in guarding it and other freedoms. I know this may sound like a Braveheart speech before a giant battle, but without faithfully guarding our ability to freely post philosophical discussions on the merit of puppies over kittens, we then lose the ability to have a philosophical discussion on the implications of new media on the political, social, and economical landscape of our world.

Now if we examine the social theory analysis of the recent trends in media we can see tha....awww a puppy!

So my last post is just a simple plea to guard your ability to speak freely. The only people I’ve noticed that have actually been taken aback by the erosion of our freedoms online have been the types that don’t get out very much or have another agenda. It’s up to the common citizen to join the fight and stand guard over their right to post stupid pictures on Facebook or upload awful guitar covers on YouTube (awful…awful covers I might add).

Things That Should Be Censored: Duckface

There has been a large amount of seriousness in this blog lately. So I’ve decided to break it up once again with another edition of “Things That Should Be Censored”.

I would do one on Rosie but I don't think anyone cares anymore...

Facebook has been around for quite some time now. It’s become a part of our culture and this is where I have a problem. The Internet has the potential to make you a very depressed person. Going to Failbook introduces someone to the concept of going postal. The first time I visited the site I wondered why there was a qualification test to sell real estate, but not one to raise children. I’m not the only one either, some others around the Internet aren’t exactly fond of the book of faces.

Scrolling through my newsfeed, I’m seeing a couple of things. Someone is about to have a baby and they’re making sure we all know when it’s being induced, where it’s at, when it’s happening, and I’m sure by the time the kid is out we’ll know everything from the color of the eyes to the weight and name of the doctor.

Someone else just left a passive-aggressive message pertaining to something I’m not privy too because they added me and never talked to me. Another person posted pictures of themselves doing…something…I guess it was some kind of party because there are lots of people doing random things who, upon discovering there was a camera present, did what my generation does best: utterly humiliate ourselves by making a duckface.

This expression could be used for a variety of things. In Turkey, it could be used to tell someone you are not happy with your kabob. In North Korea, it could be the new way of greeting someone and instantaneously transmitting the eternal happiness of The Great Leader Obam…errr…I mean Kim Jong-Il.

The concept of nuclear annihilation is now both terrifying and increasingly hilarious because of this man.

 
Instead, my generation has entered into adulthood by inventing something for our children to make fun of fifty years down the road.
 

Dear Internet Whores and Twenty-Somethings. This face qualifies you for a cleansing fire of holiness to erase your vapid soul from the face of the Earth.

 
 

Iran Was Our Last Great Bastion of Freedom…Now It’s Gone

If you’ve been paying attention at all to what I’ve been writing these past few months, you’d know that I’m one of those bigoted Christian types who believes in hard-work and the government leaving me alone. To some, that may seem like a sure way to find yourself tarred and feathered at an Occupy Wall Street protest. To others, that’s the only reason they would even talk to me at all. To someone at MSNBC or a political science professor at (insert state university here), I’m the closest you could ever get to talking to Hitler without taking a trip to CERN and using their science-y stuff to go back in time. In fact, I may be worse than Hitler considering he was a vegetarian, really liked the Muslims (he sorta had this thing about hating Jews and they like that in a guy), and used to be an art student.

I knew those hipsters were up to something...

There is one thing that I’ve latched onto that would confuse any liberal about to call me a bigoted hick who believes in the giant spaghetti monster in the sky: free speech. So it didn’t come as a surprise to me that Iran has banned the sale of Battlefield 3 in its stores. Iran is one of those outliers that tip the balance of world politics on the side of crazy. I’m not talking about the “wow those people wearing towels for headbands sure like to yell a lot” crazy; I’m talking ex-girlfriend who calls you in the middle of the night screaming and just so happens to have the potential for nuclear weapons and an entire population of anti-Semites ready to sacrifice everything to their spaghetti monster in the sky kind of crazy.

WHY DID YOU FORGET MY BIRTHDAY! YOU'RE SO SELFISH!

This story ties into my previous post because this game was censored by the government for violating their fascist nationalistic policy on media much like the petition by a few religious zealots in our country sought for Obama to ban a videogame because they did not agree with it. This isn’t the first time new media has been censored before either. After presidential elections resulted in victory for Ahmadinejad in Iran, students took to the streets in protest and were subsequently arrested. Twitter and YouTube were censored to prevent meeting places from being discussed and news about the government abuse from getting out to the international press. I know this may be a bit of a stretch, but we could eventually end up the secular/politically correct  version of Iran if we allow movements that seek to censor speech and media gain any traction. Bills like SOPA represent the first step in a process to curtail our greatest freedom. Make sure to contact your representative and let them know not to support this act. Pretty soon we won’t be able to tell them what we think anymore, and they’ll be the ones telling us what to do.

Censorship Isn’t Just For Smart People

There hasn’t been much in the way of new news concerning censorship that isn’t the SOPA bill, Occupy Wall Street, or videogames so I may be beating a dead horse in this post. Regardless, it has to be said and I think this lull in the excitement would be the perfect time to say it.

“Fine I’m on the edge of my seat, just spit it out already!”

Videogames and unreasonable accusations of violence seem to have become a national sport for our media. Whether it was Columbine High School or the release of Call of Duty 8 (or 9…I forget what number they’re on now), people who aren’t knowledgable about videogames somehow think they know enough to make conjectures about the nature of the game and how playing it will instantly make your child a frothing-at-the-mouth psychopath who, at the first chance he gets, will shoot up a whole room of people because the videogame told him so.

I just leveled up by executing everyone that I love. VIDEOGAMES ARE AWESOME!

 Most of the human race is relatively sane. I could show you the dregs of the western world the congregate on place like 4chan and Reddit, but I wouldn’t recommend visiting those sites unless you want to lose your faith in humanity and all that is good in the world. Regardless, social pariahs that live their lives through the internet do not represent the vast majority of us who view gaming as a hobby and a way to unwind at the end of a long day. Some people beg to differ…
 
There is currently a petition on Obama’s White House website asking for the game Skyrim to be outlawed. I won’t list the full language here, but suffice to say it makes me embarassed to be a Christian to see the kind of ignorant and flammable speech used in the petition. Only someone who has not really played Skyrim nor examined the nature of the game itself would spell the name of the game wrong (in the original text it is referred to as “SkyRim”). It’s this kind of knee-jerk reactionary behavior that leads to censorship and the limitation of free speech in the first place. While the gaming media and those in the know are already mocking the petition, parents and those who aren’t familiar with videogames are the people who are most vulnerable to ignorant misinformation.
 
The point of this mostly rambling post is to always be familiar of what you are arguing against. Going on YouTube and viewing gameplay videos or even heading over to Gamestop (don’t buy from them though…that place is a rip-off) to ask to try the game is better than assuming a random person is correct. I would encourage you to assume that I’m not correct either. I grew up playing videogames and the Internet, so my view is scewed. Even if the topic isn’t videogames, we all should always strive to learn about a topic ourselves instead of using biased information spread to you by someone with an agenda.

Protect IP Act

The topic I’m talking about today is sort of ironic. I mentioned 1984 and how censorship of media is parallel to the main idea of the book. It has come to my attention that there is currently a bill in Congress that aims to censor humanity’s greatest means of communication: the Internet.

No not THAT Internet. I mean the part that's actually useful...er...than the other parts

The “Protect IP Act” is a very interesting bill that is most likely a weapon created by the RIAA and other media producers to combat piracy of their copyrights on the internet. While this may not be an accurate statement and a simple opinion, I believe that the RIAA is slightly worse than Chris Brown because not only do they support and make his kind of music, they make a LOT of money from it. The RIAA is the equivalent of Beelzebub come back to Earth from his fiery imprisonment in Hell.

But all I wanted to do was make fun of Nickelback!

I’m against this bill mainly because it represents a massive increase in governmental power over expression and the Internet. It seeks to stifle creative expression and independent entrepreneurs from making money from their creations simply because they are not a part of the massive union conspiracy that dominates most large industries today. My blog could be shut down simply because I am using an image containing a picture from an obscure movie because the MIAA doesn’t like it. I’m not making any money from this site, nor am I claiming copyright of the image. But that doesn’t matter, proponents of this bill are angry about how their images are being treated and seek to destroy them.

I will say though, it’s quite ironic that a Democratic senator created and sponsored the bill (along with some Republican supporters) and a mass of pro-Democrat unions and evil (my words) associations are foaming at the mouth to get this thing passed. If you go to many liberal websites the pitchfork mob hippies that tend to get up in arms about people making money are VERY angry about this bill. I wonder what they would think if they knew that freedom of expression and individual rights are what the libertarian and moderate conservative movements are about…

Videogames Are Art: To The Moon

After reading my last few posts, I’m guessing the whole political thing is a bit tired isn’t it? I’d like to talk about something that will make everyone feel better, rather than something that would make my blood pressure rise. But first, watch this:

*sniff*…errr…AHEM…sorry I was cutting onions…or…umm…nevermind.

Pretty good huh? To The Moon is a rather touching game about a man who simply wanted to go “To The Moon”. It seems a simple concept at first, and in the end (like in the trailer) he does go to the moon. But he means so much more when he says that. The meaning of his dying wish is layered under a broken heart and a traumatic experience that would influence his entire life. Playing To The Moon is like watching a great movie, or reading a life-changing book. The dialogue between Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts is entertaining and meaningful, while the music brings the emotional experience to another level entirely.

I originally heard about this game last summer. I watched the trailer above and was instantly interested. Stories are one of our greatest means of communication, and this game seemed to represent an amazing example of that. As soon as the game came out a couple of weeks ago I sat down with my wife and we began to play it. I say play, but in reality I mean watch. The game does have some interactive elements to it, but those take second place to actually watching what is going on. I felt deep and sad emotions watching Johnny’s (the dying older gentleman) life unfold. His marriage to River was hard to endure. Through her condition and her eventual death, Johnny suffered and hurt. His final wish was for Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts to change his memories so that he could go “to the moon”.

Like I said before though, going to the moon will mean something entirely different by the time the game is finished. When Amy and I found out what he meant by the moon and what his wife River meant with the origami rabbits she kept folding for Johnny when she was dying, we collectively lost it right there on the couch. I haven’t cried that hard since watching The Road, and that is one depressing movie.

AND I'M PROUD OF IT...*sniff*...

Seeing the amazing ending of the game, and how all the ends are tied up at the conclusion of the epic five-hour adventure Amy and I had just endured was a great experience I have not had in any other form of media. I, a heartless Republican who has no remorse for dirty hippies and likes to shoot guns, cried like a little girl no less than three times throughout To The Moon. The story woven for the player is like no other I have ever seen. I’ve played 24-hour epics like Final Fantasy 10, and watched sappy movies like The Notebook, but this experience has no equal. Just writing this blog post makes me tear up. Don’t get me started on the music either.

Why am I writing what amounts to a schoolgirl crush about a two-dimensional videogame? It’s because we still don’t understand the ways that a game can touch us. We feel more attached to a character because we are the ones controlling them. That controller and the inputs are representational of our investment in the game. This may not hold true for simplistic games like Mario or shooters like Call of Duty, but there are experiences out there that can only be gained through our own participation.

That is the reason The Road will always sit on my DVD shelf unopened except for that ONE time I watched it. I saw that little boy as my own potential son. The Man (that is his name in the book) is me, just trying to take care of him in a world that is slowly dying. The moment the Man and the Boy find the bomb shelter full of food and water, I broke down. Because I saw those characters through my own potential experiences. Just like Amy and I broke down when finding out what River meant when she kept asking Johnny what her origami rabbits looked like. We saw them as ourselves. We experienced their sorrow because we realized that their circumstances changed their lives irrevocably. If I had not  gone to Silver Dollar City on that one particular day, if I had not decided to listen to what God was telling me and leave OTC for College of the Ozarks, then I would never have found my wife. I would never have found my own “moon”.

Of course I had to put this here. Why do you ask?

Each person has their own experience when playing a game like this. It’s not just To The Moon. It’s slaying a dragon in Skyrim, it’s the awesome moments of playing with your buddies on Battlefield 3, it’s seeing a summoner’s self-sacrificial journey to save the world in Final Fantasy 10 (and the laughing scene that everyone thinks is so cheesy).

That is why we should never censor videogames, or any form of media at all. Each and every one of us is able to experience an adventure or emotion that we would have otherwise never have been able to. We save the world and find our true love. We get to fly jets or fire the cannon on a tank. Keeping us from experiencing these things is keeping us from expressing human emotion. The very act of censorship would only be fulfilling a prophecy foretold in a book that was censored for its content, 1984.

Here’s the link to the page for To The Moon. PLEASE go out and buy it. It’s only around twelve dollars. This game is a masterpiece unequaled in the digital medium. You can also buy the soundtrack on bandcamp for a fiver. I would recommend anyone, even someone who isn’t into videogames, give this game a try. It’s truly amazing and I can’t recommend it enough.

Things That Should Be Censored: Internet Commenters

Continuing my light-hearted series on things that SHOULD be censored, we come to what may symbolize the destruction of our civilization: internet commenters.

Internet commenters have come to symbolize the very worst in society. Go to any YouTube video and you’ll see everything from “FIRST” to a rant whose only intelligible features are its creative use of vulgar words. Visit a site like Reddit and you can see the multitude of basement dwelling atheists yelling at each other in a digital circle akin to what happens when theatre majors talk about the musical RENT.

If you don't know what Reddit is, picture a thousand Michael Moores all at once...*shudder*

So why should we censor internet commenters? Maybe I can put it in perspective…

Picture this: You are talking with your friend, viewing a movie, having a political discussion, walking down the street, attending class, literally anything that involves other people. During your activity anyone who walks by or sees what is going on can jump in and make a random comment that has nothing to do with your activity.

Stumble down the stairs? This kid will make sure you know how awful you are at life.

LOLZ NOOB! U CNT EVAN WALK TEH STAIRZ!

I sometimes imagine internet commenters to be like middle school. Everyone ridiculed you for everything and it was a giant popularity contest. No one (reasonable) really liked middle school, and we really don’t want to continue that trend into the modern world do we? Then I say we get rid of the internet entirely! Surely access to information and entertainment will be the end of us all! Besides, no one wants to be told off by a self-important hipster…do they?

"Michael Moore told me that capitalism isn't right...that's why I buy into a genre of clothes and music catered to my ironic neckbeard."