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CURRENTS
Issue #66
January 2, 2008
Brand New Day
Front Page

A new year has arrived, and yet the drought continues. What an immense disappointment. Hello everyone and welcome to Currents... or rather, this approximation that I've managed to put together. I know I claimed a week ago that Currents would be back to normal by this week, but I suppose I just wasn't thinking. Things are just as threadbare as they were a week ago, possibly even more so. But there are a few interesting things that have managed to surface, and I have written them up for your reading pleasure.

I've been playing a lot of Baten Kaitos Origins, an obscure little GameCube RPG from 2006. It's a prequel to 2005's Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, which got a lot more attention than Origins ever did. I don't believe we even have a review for Origins on our site, and that should tell you something. Somewhat unfortunate, because I'm really enjoying it, and I think it's quite a bit better than the first game was. The two main problems I had with Eternal Wings were the horrible voice acting and the slow-paced storyline, and both of those problems have been remedied in Origins. The magnus card combat system is still a little frustrating at times, but I enjoyed it in the first game and I enjoy it here as well, despite the fact that it's been somewhat simplified. Party members share from the same deck, and the defensive round has been eliminated. The latter I have no problem with, but I don't really appreciate the "universal deck" idea. I liked the individual decks in Eternal Wings, even if they did require extensive management.

But enough on that; if I can find the time, perhaps I will do this site a service and write up a review for the game. Let us now delve into another edition of Currents. It may be short, but it is sweet.

Jack Thompson Attacks Department of Defense
We're being destroyed from within
Title

You know, when I was given the position of Currents Columnist, what I looked forward to most was writing Jack Thompson stories. I say that with the utmost sincerity. After all, there are few things more pleasing to we gamers than making fun of his immense (and willful) ignorance. And as the writer of Currents, I now have the ability to insult him publicly. It doesn't get much better than that.

Yet somehow 'ol Jack has managed to maintain a fairly low profile for the last few months. Sure, there was some talk of him being disbarred, and he had a case or two pitched out the window by an irate judge, but he didn't cause the sort of trouble we're all used to. As a result, the first four columns I wrote were entirely Jack Thompson free. However, that trend ends today with my fifth edition of Currents, in which Jack has not one, but two headlines plus a random. For this I really must thank him, because otherwise I wouldn't have had anything to write about.

Do any of you make New Year's resolutions? I don't; I barely give them a thought. However, Jack Thompson apparently does, and one of them is to go after the U.S Department of Defense on the grounds of their "unholy alliance" with the videogame industry. Why, you ask? I'll just let Mr. Thompson explain:

What is increasingly clear is that the unholy alliance between the game industry and the DOD is teaching an entire generation of kids that war is glamorous, cool, desirable, and consequence-free.

Leave it to a man as paranoid as Jack Thompson to suspect our own Department of Defense of inciting violence of all things. Quite a heavy accusation, because from where I stand such an act would run entirely opposite to what the purpose of the DoD happens to be. It's ridiculous enough to accuse game developers of promoting violence Jack, but to suggest that the Department of Defense is in on the deal? Good grief. But, lets see what else Jack had to say.

One of the consequences of this collaboration is the increasing number of commando-style assaults by young video gamers, such as the recent “mall massacre” in Omaha, Nebraska. Virginia Tech’s Cho was an obsessive high school player of the military-themed CounterStrike, according to the Washington Post.

In a way, I feel sorry for Jack. He is universally despised, and yet it's clear that this man honestly believes that he is fighting to create a better world for our children. And yet, at the same time, he is so horribly misguided that it's difficult to take him seriously, and the above statement attests to that. He blames videogames for the Virginia Tech massacre, and yet it has been made exceedingly clear that the killer, Seung Hui Cho, was not a serious gamer. In fact, videogames have not been identified as a factor in his actions by anyone other than Jack Thompson and Dr. Phil. I'm quite sure Thompson knows this, but as he so often does, he is simply ignoring the facts, as they do not gel well with his crusade.

To tell the truth, I really don't understand how this "alliance" provides any fuel for Thompson anyways. It's true; the military has been making increased use of videogames as training devices. But how, exactly, does this collaboration teach kids that violence is "cool?" That's a massive accusation there, completely absent any real evidence. In his press release Thompson included a link to this site which gives some details on how videogames are used as training devices. However, rather than strengthening his point the information within only weakens it. Almost none of the games listed are commercially available, and in fact, on page 3 it is made quite clear that "most commercial games don't meet the complex specifications of the simulations needed for military mission rehearsals and experimentations". On top of that, the only M rated commercial game said to be used is Socom- a popular World War II shooter completely absent any drug dealers, hookers, murderers, or other such things that Jack Thompson could take offense to. A great number of the games they use do not involve shooting, or violence of any kind; there are multiple simulators used to train soldiers how to peacefully work their way through situations, and engage in such tasks as rebuilding and interaction with locals.

Mr. Thompson is really reaching in this case. The Defense Department doesn't train their soldiers with Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt. In fact, there's not a game mentioned, commercial or otherwise, that has any offensive material present besides war violence, and perhaps some language. But then, perhaps Thompson is out to abolish the first-person shooter genre entirely? It certainly wouldn't surprise me. Let us read on, my friends.

Thompson Petitions Omaha Police Chief for Videogame Info
There's only two types of people who would shoot up a mall...

Thompson's been a busy boy of late. In addition to his assault against the Department of Defense, he is sticking his nose into the issue of the mall massacre in Omaha, Nebraska. What he wants is for the Omaha police chief, Thomas Warren, to reveal what the police found among the belongings of the killer, Robert Hawkins. To be specific, he wants the public to know what kind of videogames Hawkins played.

When reasoning why Mr. Hawkins did what he did, most of us would probably look to such facts as his history in a mental health facility. But Thompson is convinced that videogames were a prime factor in Hawkins's actions, and the actions of all those who have committed similar murderous acts in the past. In a phone conversation with KETV-7, Thompson said "the public has a need to know, has a right to know, what's on his computer hard drive." In the writ that he filed, Thompson says:

These [killings] have occurred, in part… because of the advent of extremely violent interactive media (video games) consumed by adolescents and teens who use these murder simulation devices to rehearse and prepare for these murderous assaults.

To say that there is a psychological link between videogame violence and real-world violence is one thing, but to suggest that such games can actually train individuals in the act of killing is entirely different. There have been plenty of studies concerning the psychological effects of violent media, and the topic is, at the very least, worthy of being mentioned. But to my knowledge there are no studies concerning whether or not playing Halo will teach you how to handle a sniper rifle. I'm afraid I just can't buy such a theory, because if it were true then I'd be able to wield a sword, lance, and battleaxe like a pro. But after years of playing RPGs, my blade-wielding skills have yet to emerge. (I'm still hoping, though.) How Jack has managed to draw such a conclusion is far beyond me, but then, I doubt the man has ever played a videogame.

Source: GamePolitics
Downloadable Games Coming to the DS
Seriously...now is the time to be a Nintendo fan

We all know about the DS's ability to download game demos from certain hotspots such as game stores and airports. Furthermore, in February the first DS game to make use of downloadable content will be released in the form of Professor Layton and the Curious Village. The content will actually be downloaded onto the Wii, and then transferred to the DS via a wireless connection.

According Nintendo of America's President, whom we all know simply as Reggie, Nintendo will be taking further advantage of downloadable content for the DS. Sometime soon, players will be able to download full games to the Wii and then transfer them to the DS to play them. He did not specify if these would be brand new titles available exclusively for download, or older titles available on the Virtual Console.

A few weeks ago, Nintendo updated their Japanese Virtual Console page, in which they displayed two additional grayed-out boxes along with the six systems already available. While nothing official has been said, this is a fairly obvious teaser for the future addition of two more consoles to the current VC lineup. This is pure speculation, but perhaps one or both of them could be a portable system such as the GameBoy or GameBoy Color? It would make perfect sense to download these titles and then transfer them to your DS for play. I'm guessing that this is what Reggie has in mind, because I doubt that Nintendo is ready to offer original titles exclusively for download. I would love to see the GameBoy and the GameBoy Color added to the VC's lineup, so I'll be sitting here with my fingers crossed until further details arise.

Source: GameSpot | Kotaku
RANDOM: Without Which These Relatively Obscure, Yet Inherently Awesome Stories May Not Be Noticed!
MORE JACK THOMPSON
  • Jack Thompson, Jack Thompson, and more Jack Thompson! Here's a funny little story for you, and it concerns Jack Thompson... in a way. There is an auction on eBay right now for a copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, autographed by none other than... Jack Thompson. The seller is describing it as a "hilarious piece of physical gaming irony," and I believe that sums it up pretty well. The guy doesn't actually want to sell it though; he says something about winning a contest. And at a price of $4000, I doubt anyone will buy. But then, who knows... perhaps we should keep our eyes on this one.

Source: GamePolitics

Good 'ol Jack. All else failed, but he was there to make some news. You have to appreciate the entertainment he gives us, if nothing else. We'll complain about him as long as he's around, but the truth is that he's just a harmless idiot with a vendetta. Let's hope he never figures that out, though. Currents just wouldn't be the same without him.

The news machine should be sputtering back to life in the next few days, which means that Currents SHOULD be back to normal by next week. Even if it's not, I'll put something together. I'm a reliable guy like that. So never fear, faithful followers of Currents. Should you exist, I promise to be here for you next week, and all the many weeks following!

Oliver Motok (Email Me!)

 

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