Friday, December 28, 2007

Is this what we're fighting to save?

I Suppose We Already Knew This...

There are a few of those Microsoft applications that we all tolerate, but secretly despise. Windows is the most obvious, Internet Explorer was until Firefox liberated us all, and then there is Windows Live Messenger, the third. There are good alternatives, like GAIM, but the interface differences effectively present the same sort of barrier that stops me from moving straight to Linux. One of the things I really wouldn't miss would be the deluge of movie trailers, idiot stunts, and celebrity news that they decide to pipe into the bottom row of the main window, as if you'd ever click one of those links not by accident. Well, given the installed base of MSN, I suspect that even accidental clicks would be enough traffic that the advertisers would pay for the spots... Anyhow, today's story made me click on purpose, because the blurb was cut off, but if it was going where I thought it was (and indeed my initial assumption was correct), it was time to be upset about something.

The headline in question said that Paris Hilton had lost a significant portion of her potential inheritance, after her Grandfather declared he would donate a large portion of his wealth to Charity. I have to ask, since when did it become OK to frame this as misfortune for Paris fucking Hilton (hehe, how appropriate a turn of phrase to be applied there), and not a boon for whatever charities that her dear ol' Grandpa decides to become a (presumably) posthumous patron to? Bill and Melinda don't get any of this shit about their charity, nor even their decision to give their kids only a cool million or so (which I think might just save their children from being to silicon valley what Paris Hilton is to the internet and rich mens' penises). What I want to know is where this bajillion dollars or so will be headed, especially if the dude will be sponsoring some mad religious anti-choice pregnancy counseling services (I'm looking at you, puck bunnies), in which case it's high time to get protesting. What I want to know is what made this man decide to go the route of altruism, and what I want to know is if this will make Paris Hilton go away and stop being rich and annoying and generally the avatar of everything that is wrong with Western culture. I suspect the answer to the latter is "no", because she'll still be pretty fucking rich, and if not, she'll be dating someone who is and living off her celebrity and blowjobs (wow, I'm bitter today). If my theory is right, though, it goes farther than just "Paris sucks and I wish this would make her go away rather than be in the news". News is about things that change, and while being even much less filthy stinking rich is a change, see the part where I doubt this will affect in any way the notoriety or purchasing power of that little skank. What I'm getting at is that Paris Hilton losing this "potential inheritance" isn't actually news, because it doesn't really change who or what she is, unless this guy is really, really throwing ALL of his money into charity. The news aspect here is that money is going to charity, and that might actually change something, because it sounds like an awful lot will be spent here. If it is spent well, it could mean more medication to fight TB, or mosquito nets to fight Malaria. It's only a question of money in these cases, and it's not money that appears out of nowhere. Maybe I'm being unfair, maybe this money was expected to go to Paris, just like that, but am I wrong to suggest that a greater and more interesting change is likely to occur due to the charities gaining money, than from Paris not getting that same money to spend on more clothing and cellphones to have her contacts list stolen from (I think that happened not too long ago)?

I really, really hope that I'm not judged to be out-of-line here

And the winner is...[Game Name Here]!

I haven't seen a lot of lists (actually, there's just one video, but I have to say it's pretty lame. Toms' Hardware really needs to get its act together with their video content. Using beer to water-cool is awesome, but seriously, a lot of those "second take" videos are kind of pointless. Take lessons from Yahtzee if you want to entertain), but let's face it. CoD4? Bioshock? I've played the latter, and while it would likely take the "best writing" award, it's just not GotY material*. Usually, I would accept that there will always be legitimate dissent on this matter, but here there is not.

Portal is game of the year. That's the alpha, and the omega.


Because it wasn't over-hyped

Because it didn't trade graphics for gameplay or vice-versa

Because it made non-violent gameplay fun again

Because it had logical, intuitive puzzles; Guess-and-check, not Guess-and-check-a-walkthrough

Because it was brilliantly written, not overwritten

Because it was three hours of gameplay, and you wanted more without feeling cheated

Because you can watch someone play it in one sitting, and see them feel the same sense of satisfaction and wonder that you felt the whole way through

Because it's the one game that EVERYONE wants to play when they come here. It's the game my non-gamer PARENTS want to play. When we get a dog, I bet it too will want to play Portal!

Now, one could say that the broader appeal of Portal would make it more akin to non-Manhunt Wii games, or Peggle, that it really doesn't represent "hardcore gaming". I think you'd be full of shit! Portal has its appeal for similar reasons, namely the lack of hardcore violence, and the aforementioned intuitive nature of the puzzles, but when is it not hardcore? If the campaign doesn't float your boat, they have PUNISHING advanced maps and challenges to push things to the max. Portal will challenge you, unless you come from the future where portals exist, and were born in zero-gravity, developing a perfect 3-D kinesthetic sense from birth. Just because you can't murder legions of identical thugs/mercs/aliens/mutants over and over again does NOT mean that Portal is some kind of casual time-waster!

If you can justify another game taking this spot, I can't wait to hear the rationale!

* I'm really sorry, Bioshock fans. The thing is, I adore the atmosphere of Bioshock, the characters, the writing, the little details, but I just don't think the gameplay lives up to the coolness of the world-building. There is a good third of the game in which the combat is fun (at the start you have too few plasmids and weapons, at the end the enemies have too much health, and you can't really appreciate the power of your upgraded plasmids, no matter how cool they look), but for the rest you end up hearing splicers and dreading the annoying combat to follow. You think I'm just bad at the game? I will have you know that late-game splicers survive being set on fire with at least half of their health left, and being on fire doesn't stop them from shooting you. It would be ok if the fire didn't kill them, but it should at least take them out of commission long enough for you to deal with their buddy before returning to finish them off! Perhaps this is a function of lag (I disliked the original Halo on PC more than I should have, and having now run it at buttery-smooth framerate on a much better computer realize that it's still just mediocre, but it's at least playable) so I could just need to turn down the settings, and I will suddenly be able to move and react fast enough to enjoy the combat, but I expect the splicers will be just as annoying, as will the instant-kill rivet-gun that the "Rosies" carry around (speaking of which, why can't it be a weapon for the player, considering that they can already carry the grenade launcher and chem thrower, neither of which are small)

It's 2:30 now, which is later than I wanted to be on the computer. Also, I have an email to write.



Laur said...

1. Agree :) Also, on a kinda related note (in that it's also about a celebrity), Jamie Lynn Speares' pregnancy should have been kept out of the media. Umm...moral decency anyone? Or at least publicize it in an informative and educational way...

2. Agree. I like Portal. But...I have kinda been playing Peggle for a week straight. And getting on average 2 hours less sleep a night.

3. Michael went into the MSN code and found a way to get rid of the ads, nudges, backgrounds, and maybe one other thing (the annoying bits). I can send it to you if you want.


GoldMatenes said...

True. It's so frustrating to hear more and more of this garbage... and then be told that you're watching the best news team in the world.

Portal - fantastic. I also like that it was cross-genre without being divided into pieces or needlessly complex.


On another note: I'm never on MSN anymore. I don't know why, but I just don't like it much perhaps I should try it again... but I find every conversations seems to dissolve after 2 minutes into ' how's it going now?'

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