Op-Ed: Grand Theft Auto V removed from retailer due to guilt and slander – 12/11/2014

gta-v

Sexual violence is an ugly aspect of our society that has a lasting impact on the victims. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed in society and taken seriously by the criminal justice system.

Alleging one of the greatest cultural works encourages sexual violence and then strong-arming retailers with guilt isn’t one way to bring better awareness. Unfortunately a victim of domestic violence (going by the pseudonym of Nicole) chose to take this path by circulating a petition that slandered Grand Theft Auto V than bullied Kmart and Target Australia to remove it from their shelves.

It’s important to know that at no point in Grand Theft Auto V are players asked or required to participate in acts of sexual violence. There are also no moments in the game that features the player perpetrating such a criminal act on a female non-playable character (NPC).

The petition that circulated on Change.org claimed that Grand Theft Auto Vencourages and rewards players for sexually assaulting women. Her only evidence is a YouTube video that demonstrates a players encounter with a prostitute, a trivial feature that has been available since Grand Theft Auto III.

This is has not been the first time the game has been denounced for allowing players to have interactions with prostitutes. However most critics who have denounced the content have been taken seriously in resent years. This is due to a story influenced by Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson that presents an in-depth analysis of the American Dream in a post-2008 crash society. Bickering over an insignificant content to the game gives the impression that they are too stupid to understand its literary content.

Unlike the few irrelevant critics, this petition has fooled 40,000 users and convinced many that the game “encourages kids” to participate in some acts of sexual violence. The result has been two major retailers having pulled the game and reignite a controversy that should have been dead. Worse is that Nicole has had the audacity to brag about her action while demonizing gamers.

So it should not be surprising that the gaming community has come to Rockstar’s defense by circulating another petition while denouncing Nicole’s unfounded and damaging accusation.

Many have felt that Nicole’s petition was based on her not being informed of the game’s content and story, but that is just sugar coating it.The content of the petition was not based on misinformation or a response to Gamergate but the intent to damage. This was all about Nicole wanting to advance her own political ambitions by leaching on a social issue that matters to many.

Following in the footsteps of Jack Thompson, anti-video game activist and disbarred lawyer, this has been a moral crusade based on lies to deceive the public. Adding more insult, she is constantly referring to the game as a product targeted to kids while assuming gamers are kids. This despite the fact that the average gamer is in their late 20s and the game was made for adults.

Nicole is no hero looking out for those who been the victims of sexual violence. The real heroes are those who refuse to accept what happen to them while working not only to seek justice for themselves but for others. They are also the ones who are fighting to have the law take the crime seriously while pushing for stronger punishments against rapists.

It should also be noted that Change.org needs to to be held accountable for allowing such a petition to be passed around without checking its accuracy of its claim. Was the petition actually fact checked by an admin or does any social justice warrior gets a free pass?

Sexual violence is a problem that could only be addressed by fighting for the rights of the victims to seek justice, not slandering a work of art. In the end Nicole is no hero, she is just another opportunist pushing her own political agenda on the backs of those who have been the victims of sexual violence.

Written for Digital Journal 
12/11/2014
Original ArticleOp-Ed: Grand Theft Auto V removed from retailer due to guilt and slander

Review: Far Cry 4 takes players to an exotic conflict of redemption – 11/26/14

Welcome to Kyrat, a landlocked country in the Himalayas that is plagued by corruption and civil war thanks to its despotic king. This is the exotic war zone that players will have to fight through in ‘Far Cry 4′.

Continuing the tradition of its predecessors; the game puts players in the role of a random character then tosses them into a conflict zone influenced by memorable stories. The first game in the series was inspired by The Island of Doctor Moreau, its sequel was a modern retelling of Hearts of Darkness, and the third game morphed the themes of Inside the Looking Glass with the plot of James Cameron’s Avatar along with a little Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

 This time players will embark on a journey inspired by the Nepalese Civil War. This was a 10-year conflict that was fought between Maoist intransigents against the Royalist government and ended with the monarchy being abolished.

The story follows Ajay Ghale as he returns to Kyrat to spread his mother ashes. The moment he crosses the border, the bus is attacked by the military and he becomes the prisoner of Pagan Min, the nation’s despotic king. Ghale is taken to the Royal Palace were he is the guest of honor during a dinner celebration. When Pagan Min steps out for a moment, the player has the choice to stay seated or wander the palace. It’s this choice that determines if he joins the Golden Path in their war against the Royalist government.

Far Cry 4 is a first-person adventure that puts players into an open world that has so much to explore. Kyrat is a magnificent world that has a history of violence and many secrets that are open for exploration. Besides the Royal Army and internal conflict, the natural wildlife is also a force not to be overlooked.

The gameplay setup is identical to its predecessor with minor changes that improves the overall experience. Several new vehicles and a slightly tweaked combat system allow for a better playing experience. While this may feel like a drawback, in all fairness Ubisoft games are more memorable for their story than the gameplay.

It’s important to note that the story is not just an improvement over its predecessor but a moral journey in the backdrops of a civil war. The story will explore themes of redemption, the emotional consequences of a broken heart along with the internal conflicts of traditional values vs. modern values. The biggest driving force in the story are the two characters who are in conflict with each other but bound by a sense of duty to an adopted country.

Unlike Jason Brody from the last game, Ajay Ghale is not some annoying brat who acquires combat skills after taking some hallucinogens. Instead he is a man with a troubled past that wants to put his mother to rest while exploring his families heritage. On the other side of the spectrum is Pagan Min, who seeks to keep control of Kyrat by what ever means necessary. This is a villain that could easily be described as a J-Pop star with the personality and style of the Joker. While he lacks the junkie-style savageness of Vaas Montenegro, he makes up for it with his charismatic charm.

Despite being total opposites, they have this twisted relationship that is very similar to what is shared between Batman and the Joker. A relationship that is best demonstrated in how Min doesn’t taunt or provoke Ghale but instead converses as if they are friends.The common theme that bounds these characters is they have a Western upbringing but have have come to Kyrat for a purpose that evolved into an odyssey to better themselves.

Despite having a solid story and multidimensional characters, the game has a few minor issues that are hard to overlook. Far Cry 4‘s biggest letdown is not that it uses the same gameplay mechanism from its predecessor — it uses of the same content that has become a trope for almost every Ubisoft game in the last few years.

The obvious has been requiring players to climb a tower to unlock a section of the map, a mini-game used in Assassin’s Creed, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Watch Dogs. It’s understandable that the game wants to be challenging, but this mini-game has been played out too much.

Another common trope encountered are enemies having more red on their uniforms than the Red Army, something Ubisoft has an obsession with. Such a uniform design would make sense in the Assassin’s Creed series but no modern military forces has red painted all over their uniform. It was not just in Far Cry 3 but these red armies were also an adversary in Watch Dogs and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.

Finally it seems that they were a little lazy when it came to changing the players arsenal. Despite a few new additions, the roster of weapons available is the same from Far Cry 3 while using the same texture that was also featured in Watch Dogs.

As stated before, Ubisoft games always seem to have the most clunky gameplay mechanism but its always made up with a memorable story. While its acceptable to forgive them for reusing these tropes and the gameplay, they really need to come up with some original ideas before they start rehashing the story.

Far Cry 4 preserves everything gamers liked about its predecessor while introducing a more memorable story that is rich in context. While it will feel like a familiar game, the journey will make players explore a new world with many wonders.

Final Score: 4.5/5

Written for Digital Journal 
11/26/2014
Original Article: Review: Far Cry 4 takes players to an exotic conflict of redemption

Review: Call of Duty: Heroes is a mediocre take on a modern classic – 11/23/2014

‘Call of Duty: Heroes’ is a new vision of the iconic shooter by bring the action to the mobile device within the context of a Real Time Strategy game.

Inspired by the Modern Warfare and Black Ops story arc, players establish a base than build an army. Once everything is setup, players could either play a single-player campaign or attack the bases of other players.

Besides controlling the standard units seen in most RTS games, players will also have the ability to deploy iconic characters like Captain Price and Soap Soap MacTavish. Each of these Hero class characters have unique abilities based on the Perks from the multiplayer game.

Despite being a new setup based on the iconic series, its gameplay is almost identical to the setup featured in Clash of Clans. This would have been acceptable issue to overlook, however that setup could easily be described as having dumbed down the concept of the RTS genre.

This setup deprives the player of having to mentality develop a strategy to overcome an opponent. Instead the only plan is making a lot of units than overpowering them with sheer numbers. Sure the player may have the illusion that they are a military tactician but in truth it’s the equivalence of playing Candy Crush.

Not making the game any better is the lazy single player campaign that lacks any kind of a story to connect the events. The player just attacks the enemy base than move on to the next level that feels somewhat the same.

There is some sense of fun in this game but it really requires the player to have never played Clash of Clans or another RTS game on the mobile phone. At best its going to be one of those mediocre games someone will play just to kill time while on the toilet.

Call of Duty: Heroes tries to bring something new to gamers while preserving the essence of two iconic story arcs. Instead it uses a gameplay setup that has dumb down the RTS genre. On the bright side, it’s still a better game than Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Final Score: 3/5

 Written for Digital Journal 
11/23/2014
Original Article:

Op-Ed: The legacy of ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ ten years later – 11/21/2014

A young Big Boss in 'Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater'

A young Big Boss in ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’

Ten years ago on November 17, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ was released for the PlayStation 2 and it truly demonstrated the storytelling craft of video games.

The game started as a way for Hideo Kojima to make amends with fans who were outraged over the bait and switch of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. At the same time the success of Vietcong had started a temporary fad of creating military games set in jungle environments.

Not wanting to settle for a game that panders to popularity, Kojima crafted an origin story that explores the political atmosphere and pop-culture of the 1960s. From the start the players is given a quick history lesson on the Cold War while the opening credits feature a theme song that pays homage to the James Bond films.

The year is 1964; tensions on the world stage are high as the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union threatens the peace of the world. At the same time the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev is being threaten by Colonel Volgin, who is plotting to replace him with Leonid Brezhnev. In the midst of all this, the Fox Unit commences the Virtuous Mission with the goal of bringing Dr. Nikolai Sokolov to the West.

A young Special Forces operative code named Naked Snake is deployed to find Dr. Sokolov. Everything goes according to plan until it’s unveiled that The Boss, the Mother of the Special Forces and Snake’s mentor, has defected to the Soviet Union. To make matter worse; a research facility is destroyed in a nuclear attack that was perpetrated by Colonel Volgin using the Davy Crockett.

As a result the world has on verge of a possible war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The only way to avoid a nuclear war is for Naked Snake to embark on a journey that will push him to the limits as he is tasked with eliminating The Boss. It is out of the tragic ashes of Operation Snake Eater will rise the legacy of Big Boss.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was universally praised by both gamers and critics for raising the bar with a thought-provoking story that explored several passionate themes while redefining the stealth genre. Ten years later it has been hailed as one of the greatest PlayStation 2 games while its story has been praised as one of the most memorable in gaming.

It’s one of the few PlayStation 2 games that have survived the test of time as several ports only updated the graphics while keeping the original content. What has made Snake Eater standout is the revolutionary gameplay it introduced and the moral themes it explored.

The gameplay broke from the traditional setup featured in stealth action as the jungle environment presented a new opportunity. It was not just about avoiding detection, but a focus on jungle survival and overcoming natural obstacles. The character had to be fed and have his medical needs attended to or it would be difficult to continue. This laid the foundation for other titles that included survival in the gameplay mechanism.

The story has been a memorable one because the game explores the themes of unquestioned patriotism and its consequences along with the bound of a mother and son.

The consequences of unquestioned patriotism is the most significant due to its role in American politics during the Cold War. McCarthyism banished the concept of questioning authority while unchallenged obedience to the government dominated the political landscape. For her country, The Boss is forced to make several life changing sacrifices, including killing her lover. In the end she was asked to defect to the Soviet Union than killed by her protege for being a “traitor.”

It’s after the success of Operation Snake Eater that Snake learns the truth. He then questions his own patriotism after his mentor was tossed to the wolves by the country she swore to defend. This sets in motion Big Boss turning his back on America that will reach to a major boiling point following the events of Ground Zeros.

The bond of a mother and son is also a very powerful theme explored during the events of Operation Snake Eater. Snake is consistently at odds with his mission of eliminating The Boss due to their past history that has created a relationship similar to that between a mother and child. Like a mother; she nurtured him as they have fought in combat together while being a major influences on his character.

This relationship and its challenges are best demonstrated when The Boss is able to easily subdue Snake on multiple occasions. It may appear that he lacks the skill, but in truth is he is unable to bring himself to hurt his mother figure. Snake is finally able to defeat her after overcoming his emotions but at a cost to his principles.

It’s because of these powerful themes that made the story of Snake Eater an emotional, driven work of art. Rarely had a video game had a story that would emotionally impact the player like Kojima’s did.

Finally, one should not overlook the musical score that was composed Harry Gregson-Williams. It’s a mix of some new sounds along with a familiar composition that helps build the dramatic tension in the story.

Looking back 10 years after its release, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is truly one of the most magnificent works of digital art. As gamers await the release of The Phantom Pain, the story of how it all began will be a true testament to the power of story telling in the context of a video game.

Written for Digital Journal 
11/17/2014
Original Article: Op-Ed: The legacy of ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ ten years later

Noriega’s lawsuit over ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops II’ dismissed – 10/31/2014

A judge in California ruled to dismiss Manuel Noriega lawsuit against Activsion for using his name and likeness without his consent in ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops II.’

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, William H. Fahey, ruled to dismiss the lawsuit because it violated Activsion’s right to free speech and the states anti-SLAPP laws. Court documents noted several similar cases in the past to support Activsion’s claim while also making note of the atrocities committed by Noriega when he was dictator of Panama.

Activision lead console and former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, statedin a press release, This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we’re gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn’t win. This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world.

The former dictator filed the lawsuit against Activsion for using his name and likeness without consent in Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Noriega appears as a minor villain who helps a terrorist escape than is hunted by the main character during Operation Just Cause.

Will Fulton of Digital Trend noted that ruling could set precedent for Lindsy Lohan’s lawsuit against Rockstar Games. The actress is suing over the appearance of a character in Grand Theft Auto V which she claims was based on her likeness without consent.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the ninth game in the series and was released on November 13, 2012 for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game focus on a father and son in the special forces as they hunt a terrorist starting from the Cold War circa 1980s up until the near future.

Written for Digital Journal 
10/31/2014
Original ArticleNoriega’s lawsuit over ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops II’ dismissed

Review: ‘F.E.A.R. Online’ brings the horror icon to the multiplayer world – 10/27/2014

FEAROnline

The concept of a free-to-play multiplayer game based on the iconic horror shooter may at first feel difficult to comprehend, but ‘F.E.A.R. Online’ is able to capture the series essence in an online environment.

Following the destruction of the Origin Facility in the first game, Fairpoint City has been overrun by demonic creatures led by Alma Wade while the Armacham Technology Corporation (ATC) is trying to cover up its involvement with an army of mercenaries. The government response by deploying the Task Force to eliminate the demonic presence and recover evidence of ATC’s involvement.

Its hard to imagine how a MMO game could be developed given the fact that the F.E.A.R. series was more of a single player game. To overcome this obstacle, the devlopment team created a Co-Op game with a story that runs parallel to the events of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin.

The Co-Op missions are several different scenarios where up to five players must complete a series of objectives while battling swarms of Abominations along with squads of Replica soldiers or ATC mercenaries. The players start by achieving simple tasks (like bomb defusing) but as they progress more challenging tasks need to be accomplished.

However, no multiplayer game is complete without featuring classic modes like team deathmatch.

Players will earn experience after each game which will help them level up and gain access to new weapons. They will also earn points that can be used to purchase new weapons and gear or customize what they already have.

Unfortunately the game has a few issues that keep it from being perfect but they are flaws that can be overlooked. The biggest problem is how often it tries to milk the player to pay for gear or characters that could be used for a limited time.

Gamers can earn or purchase gear with points, but they have time limits on how long it can be used before it has to be repurchased. However, the need to purchase gear will not interfere with the overall playing experiences as a real gamer would not need to waste money on such trivial novelties.

One problem that is out of the developers’ hand is the community’s obsession with team deathmatch. Despite its amazing co-op gameplay, its hard to find or start a game due to the lack of players. However it’s real easy to find a game of deathmatch with plenty of players available to play.

Death match is fun but the co-op story offers gamers such a unique experience that it’s a real disappointment that many prefer to play the same deathmatch that could be found in every other multiplayer shooter.

Just in time for Halloween; F.E.A.R. Online is not only one of the best free-to-play shooters but also an ideal follow-up to one of the most iconic horror games of the Seventh Generation era.

Final Score: 4/5

Written for Digital Journal 
10/27/2014
Original ArticleReview: ‘F.E.A.R. Online’ brings the horror icon to the multiplayer world

Op-Ed: Capcom needs to stop forcing co-op into every Resident Evil game – 9/8/2014

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According to the details gathered by GamesMaster, ‘Resident Evil: Revelations 2′ is suppose to continue the style of its predecessor and return the series to its horror survival roots.

For devoted fans of the series this has been promising news as many have felt the series has abandoned its horror survival roots for a more action orientated game that is trying to tap into the Call of Duty fan-base.

Resident Evil 5 was a commercial success while many were disappointed over its heavy dependence on the action concept. Its success was followed by the train wreck of a game that was called Resident Evil 6, which was panned by gamers and most critics. Capcom attributed the failure of Resident Evil 6 along with several other games to their core fans being too old, an insult that was meet with a massive backlash from the gaming community.

Flash forward to the Summer and Capcom announced that an HD remake of Resident Evil was in the works and set to be released in 2015 for all major consoles. Along with the announcement of Resident Evil: Revelations 2, it appears that Capcom is actually listing to its fans and it could be rewarding in the years to come.

However there is a “but” to the news and that is the fact that Resident Evil: Revelations 2 will also feature co-op gameplay. Despite its efforts to take notes from the fans, Capcom still has an obsession with shoehorning co-op into every Resident Evil game.

Its understandable that Capcom does not want to churn the same game every year while looking for new ways to innovate the series, but forcing co-op into a game has not worked out all to well for them. Go onto any forum and its easy to see that gamers have despised the shoehorned co-op feature

Resident Evil 6 being the obvious example of how the co-op system was an utter failure in innovating while its feature in other the games was ignored by players. Unless its included as a side-game, Capcom is better just abandoning the concept of co-op in future Resident Evil games.

Resident Evil has always been the inspiration for horror games but major titles in the last few years have not been trying to force co-op onto the player. Dead Space and Alan Wake did not have to shoehorn co-op to be successful while the upcoming Alien Isolation is more focused the player trying to survive the horror scenario.

If Capcom is really interested in expanding the Resident Evil universe to the multiplayer world than it would be better to develop an open world MMORPG set in Raccoon City. The game could take inspiration from Grand Theft Auto: Online and DayZ while in the context of the Resident Evil universe.

Capcom is on the right path to restoring the series to its horror survival root but if it hopes for Resident Evil to be the example for other games to follow than they really need to abandon the concept of co-op in future titles.

Written for Digital Journal 
09/8/2014
Original Article: Op-Ed: Capcom needs to stop forcing co-op into every Resident Evil game

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