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CURRENTS
Issue #97
November 26, 2008
Let's Be Thankful
Front Page

Welcome to the ninety-seventh edition of RPGamer's Currents Column!

Happy Thanksgiving! Isn't this time of year great? You get fat with turkey and assorted side dishes on Thursday. Then, you go out and buy tons of cheap stuff on Black Friday. Oh, and then you buy even more stuff from work on Cyber Monday. Food and commercialism aside, I hope you all enjoy some nice quality time with your families this week, even if you don't celebrate the holiday.

Two more things before I forget. The New Xbox Experience is out in the wild for all you 360 users out there. How is the new interface and avatars working out for you? And finally, Happy Birthday Nintendo DS! Last Friday, November twenty-first, the DS had its fourth year anniversary. A lot has happened in those last four years. Namely, two hardware revisions and more great games than I could hope to play in a lifetime, especially when you consider the shear amount of RPGs on the system. This generation, it has become my defacto RPG player, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.

And now, on to the NEWS!

These So-Called Addicts have More Choice Than We All Think
This explains a lot...

Keith Bakker is the founder of the Smith & Jones center in Amsterdam, which is the only clinic that treats game addiction in Europe. According to him, about 10% of the hundreds of compulsive gamers that he has treated are truly addicts. The other 90% are dealing with social issues and the ills of society rather than a real dependency on gaming. Baker says:

"These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions, but the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this an addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and school teachers -- this is a social problem."
Many of these patients have been bullied at school, are lonely, or don't feel accepted by those around them. Gaming provides them online communities where they can relieve stress and find the acceptance they so desire. This, in turn, takes the place of their normal social interactions. One such patient, an avid Call of Duty 4 player, spends up to 10 hours a day playing the game. He chooses to remain anonymous as he says:
"Call of Duty was somewhere I felt accepted for the first time in my life. I liked gaming because people couldn't see me, they accepted me as my online character. I was aware that I played too much but I didn't know what to do."

As a result of these findings, the clinic is working to help refine the social skills of these compulsive campers rather than putting them through traditional addiction counseling. Many of these gamers, who are over the age of 18, need to start learning how much is too much and need to find new ways of social interaction. Because of these new treatment plans, Bakker feels that the word addiction is no longer appropriate in describing the problem.

"If I continue to call gaming an addiction it takes away the element of choice these people have. In most cases of compulsive gaming, it is not an addiction and in that case, the solution lies elsewhere."

Interestingly enough, Vietnam has just opened up its first game addiction rehabilition center in Ho Chi Min City. The clinic runs an eight week program for patients between the ages of thirteen to eighteen. The "treatment" works by developing their personalities through involvement in social work and other activities like music, painting, dancing, and sports. It will be interesting to see if the clinic comes to the same conclusions as Bakker and the American Medical Association, who refused to officially recognize videogame addiction last year.

What are all of your thoughts on the subject? I can understand how nice and comforting a game and its community can be, but I have never found myself playing excessively. Either way, I'm glad to see that video games aren't being scapegoated and that these people are getting the appropriate help they deserve.

Sources: 1up | GamePolitics
Cat Killers Banned From Playing Violent Games
But what does killing a cat have to do with games?

Last December, a group of teens broke into a house in Edmonton, Canada and put the family cat in the microwave where it died after 10 minutes of agony. The Edmonton judge presiding over the case punished the teens by putting them on probation for a year, making them do 100 hours of community service, and among other things, banning them from playing violent video games.

Yes, the two teens in question committed a horrible crime, but why a ban on video games?

According to court ordered psychological assessments, video games were not found to have directly encouraged the boys' actions. But barring their access to such games was nonetheless a recommendation put forward in the assessments. It was also suggested that the teens' cellphone access be limited to work and calls to family. But youth court Judge Shauna Miller said that condition would have served no purpose.

So the main reason for the ban on videogames was because of a recommendation from the court ordered psychologists and because the judge wanted to mirror the sentence that he imposed in a previous judgment of the case. To be quite honest, I think this is a rather strange ruling that falls into a territory best left to parents. It also carries with it an implication that the wrong types of games could help further move these teens down the wrong path. Either way, it sucks to see games dragged into another mess like this.

Sources: Kotaku | Gamesindusty
Your Consoles are Wasting More Power and Money Than You Think
Try to save some power and some money..

A report made by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) states that game consoles waste a lot of energy. Noah Horowitz, a Senior Scientist at NRDC, states that if people just turned off their Xbox 360s and PlayStation 3's after they were done playing, their electric bills could be cut by as much as $100 a year. He goes on to say that these simple steps can save people energy costs. Furthermore, with more efficient console hardware and more gamers conserving energy, consumers could save over a billion dollars a year in energy costs and help cut down on carbon emissions at the same time.

The Xbox 360 consumes 119 watts per hour when it's in active mode. On the other hand, the Nintendo Wii only consumes 16 watts per hour. The one that uses up the most energy is the PlayStation 3, consuming about 150 watts per hour when it's active. The Playstation 3 also consumes five times the power of a single Blu-Ray player when watching a movie, and its average annual energy cost for 2006 was $160, while in 2007, that number dropped to an annual cost of $134. Xbox 360 users have an annual energy cost of $103 for 2007, while lucky Wii users only have to pay about $10 a year.

So there you have it. Some raw data for you to mull over. Turn off your machines whenever you can, and save yourself a few bucks. Who knows, you might even help save the planet.

Source: GamePolitics
QUICKIES: A Few Small, But Awesome News Stories!
Snack sized news
  • PlayStation 3 Trophies Soon to be Mandatory
    Here is some great news for all of you Trophy whores. Starting January 1, 2009, all games submitted to Sony for certification must contain Trophies. Trophies were originally added to the PlayStation 3 back in July to match the Xbox 360's Achievement system. So far, it has been implemented in games on a case by case basis with Trophy support left up to the developer's discretion. It is nice to see the PS3 on a more even footing with the Xbox 360, at least in respect for getting awards for playing your games.

  • National Geographic Games
    I guess National Geographic Panda sold pretty well because it is setting up a game division called, what else, National Geographic Games. They will be making games for various platforms from home consoles to handhelds to PCs to even the iPhone. Afrika, a safari sim game on the PS3, is one of its first titles it will publish in North America. It looks like everyone wants a piece of the gaming pie and honestly, I'm glad Nat Geo is taking a bite. I love National Geographic magazine and the Nat Geo Channel on cable. It is always an invaluable resource of knowledge, and I think both kids and adults can benefit from an interactive version of that. Plus, I really want to take pictures of lions!

  • 7-11 Permanently Adding Games to Its Stores
    Video Games are now a regular staple at 7-11 stores across the U.S. In the past, 7-11 sold a few major game releases like Halo 3, Gears of War 2, and WoW: Wrath of the Lich King. It also received a bit of notoriety for constantly breaking street days by selling games as much as a week early. Now, it will be selling games year round, expanding their selection of titles, and will be strictly adhering to street dates. So there you have it, now you can buy a game and microwave a burrito at 3:00 AM at any 7-11 across the country. Now that's convenient.

  • EGM on its Way Out?
    The print era of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) may be coming to a close as Publisher Ziff Davis considers phasing out the popular magazine. EGM has been in publication for the last twenty years. Ziff Davis has already stopped printing the 27-year-old PC Magazine because of its high production costs and a cut back in advertising revenue. It's also much easier and cost effective to just have an online presence for PC Magazine. If EGM becomes an online-only publication like PC Magazine, it will be merged into the 1UP.com network. At 1UP.com, the EGM staff already has a fairly significant presence and shares responsibilities with both the magazine and the website. Ziff Davis will make its decision by the end of the year.

    Other publications that have been cancelled are the Official Playstation Magazine, GMR, and Games for Windows: The Magazine, which itself was merged into 1UP.com. The precedent for this has already been set, and the simple fact that Ziff Davis is publicly hinting that this is even a possibility means that there is a good chance for this to actually happen in the near future. This sucks since I just resubscribed last month.


I thought it was going to be a slow news week with Turkey Day nearly upon us, but I managed to find a few interesting stories, well interesting to me, at least.I guess with each column, you all learn a little bit more about my tastes and my passions. Hey, why not right? Oliver put a lot of himself into his past column updates, and now it's my turn to leave my mark.

See ya'll next week and enjoy your turkey!

Emanuel Merino
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