Sunday, August 06, 2006


Having an MP3 player, it was - of course - inevitable that I would eventually avail myself of one podcast or other. I see this post-nascent, perhaps infantile, medium becoming similar to webcomics, in that the bonds of "terrestrial" radio may be shed (as webcomics have escaped the prison of newspapers and syndication), in favour of innovative content. Of course, the obvious appeal of the format being that niche shows can succeed, which would never have made it on air (which the newsies love to trumpet with awe befitting the sight of a Van Gogh). Sadly, the downside is that there will be a lot of podcasts suitable for the public airwaves in content, that simply lack the "divine spark" that is true talent. After all, if you can hear dumb reflections on serious and complicated issues for free in real-time, why is it desirable to download pale imitations to a $300 media player?

Having been to Montréal this weekend, with family (my sister placed very well in the Highland dancing competition that was held at a fair in said city, I'll have you know. She's even got a trophy to show for it.) I had a chance to listen to the podcast I've downloaded, which is that of PC Gamer magazine. While it may be a little mainstream, and less "geeky" in its coverage of games, let's face it: People with literary and media degrees will probably be a little better at structuring [HERE] offers a fun experience, with such great debates as 'is there really less skill involved in playing an MMORPG than an FPS' - to which the verdict is that the former requires character-management skills, the latter requires simple "hand-eye good-itude" - less as structured debates, and more as impromptu free-for-alls. Listener questions are answered fairly, and poorly-written game-related journalism is met with an on-air call to the editor. Being a fan of the magazine helps, as you will already have an idea of who the editors are. Non-readers, I'll still recommend it, but not half as strongly.

For those of you that prefer plots promising plausible projections, predictions, and pondering of the future, there is a video podcast, that I invite you to examine with your tricorders...or iPods...or whatever MP3 player you have (mine is a 4GB Sandisk player, if you are curious). Or even just watch on your screen. Anywhoo....this thing is called Galacticast, and it won't be funny for some of you, but there is a gleaming gem of a good joke shining through the kinda-tinny audio. The video quality is excellent, which is a must when you may end up watching it on a postage-stamp-sized screen. Eyes such as mine are fine to watch, even on the dinky little things, but your preference is, well, yours. "Survivor: Dune" and "When Casey met Hal" are recommended watching, as is "You might be a Cylon".

On a side note, the PCG podcast crew really do ruin their credibility when discussing the nature of violence and 'offensive content' in games. While they operate on one more proven fact about youth crime than many opposing "family groups", this still amounts to only one fact about the frequency of youth crime. It is a legit fact, to be sure, but it misses the larger debate. What IS a perhaps better fact is that violent entertainment has been a staple of western culture (which gave us video gaming) for as long as there have been Civilizations. The Greeks wrestled; the Romans staged REAL bloodshed in their amphitheaters; Jousts, mock-battles, and bear-baiting were commonplace in the middle ages; public executions stopped less than a century ago. Now, we have action movies, violent games, boxing, and wrestling (speaking of OTHER virtual violence...). WHY DOES ANYONE SAY THAT THE ENJOYMENT OF VIOLENT MEDIA IS NEW? Granted, many of these civilizations collapsed. I doubt that banning violent entertainment would have done much to revitalize the Roman empire.

The real danger is also a trend that has existed for as long as there have been civil liberties, and human rights: PEOPLE WHO DON'T THINK THAT YOU AND I DESERVE THOSE RIGHTS. At best, these 'crusaders' for 'family values' are possessed of a twisted sense of our culture and its history. Worse, they could simply be a danger to the families they profess to be caring about. At worst, they are scourges to democracy, no better than Al-Quaeda. Harsh words? Think about it: they are attempting to legislate an area that should be a family responsibility. They are covering for the neglect of a generation of parents. Worse, they are attempting to place religious values where secular laws belong. One trend that gaming seems to foster is critical thinking. Could it be that THIS is the 'emergent trend' they wish to counter? A comatose America, ruled by the hypno-box that is Television is far more easy to subvert than an alert, thinking America of gamers. Right-Wing religious takeover? I can hear you cry 'PARANOIA!!!!", but the bastards are already attacking the foundations of long will it be before they try to destroy free speech? Any victory for an unconstitutional law in the US may be the beginning of a directed campaign to nullify two centuries' worth of individual freedoms. Living in Canada, the fallout won't hit me even if this happens, but living next to a Theocracy is on my 'wants' list rather on par with being disemboweled with a spork.


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