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Monthly Archives: January 2007

Define serious literary or artistic value

Anti-video game activist Jack Thompson says he has been asked to draft a bill for Massachusetts banning the sale of violent or inappropriate video games to minors. Thompson bases his bill on porn statutes preventing minors from buying games that lack “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.” Thompson’s previous attempts in Utah and Louisiana have failed, the former dying in the legislature and the latter ruled as unconstitutional.

Without getting into a debate of the freedom of speech rights regarding porn, I simply want to look at how that porn definition is being applied to video games. For all the studies that attempt to link video games with antisocial and/or violent studies, other researchers are finding beneficial effects resulting from game play. Steven Johnson’s book “Everything Bad is Good For You,” examines the problem solving challenges in video games. Even the controversial Grand Theft Auto requires so much information to play, fans have written 50,000 word summaries on how to beat the game.

If video games do provide such educational benefits, then how can these laws be applied (should they get past the courts in the first place). The porn standard deems pornography as plainly recreational and even I would concede porn’s benefits are harder to defend without getting into a moral debate. But the benefits in video games can be quantified (unlike a correlation between video games and violence) from problem solving to hand-eye coordination to book and social intelligence. Grand Theft Auto forces you to budget money. You use that money to buy weapons and fronts for illegal businesses, but doesn’t that offer some political lessons? Maybe in the sequel you can bribe a politician (you can already bribe police).

They Can Delay an Entire War

Marvel Comics has delayed the final issue of the series, Civil War, pitting hero against hero over the issue of super-hero registration. Civil War outsells the second highest selling comic each month almost two to one, yet that was not enough to keep the series on track, even after other delays. It will be almost two months, February 21st Marvel says, until we will find out who wins the Civil War.

Of course, it’s not much of a question anymore. Marvel has announced so many comics for after Civil War, there is little question about who wins. But Civil War’s delays have forced creative solutions to fill Marvel’s editorial calendar and keep fans interested. This means early announcements, like a team of super-villains currently working for the pro-registration side are getting their own series.

Delays and lateness are becoming expected practices in comics today. DC Comics’ major event last year, Infinite Crisis, skipped a month of publication and used different artists to try to make release dates. Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman has had four monthly issues published since August 2005. Three issues of Wonder Woman since July 2006. And the new series, Ultimates 3, announced in the summer of 2005, is still almost a year from being released. Comic companies and fans have come to tolerate and even accept lateness from best-selling comics. Fans keep buying late books and comic companies keep hiring late writers and artists. The late culprits are well known, even notorious, among comic fans yet these late writers and artists remain popular. What other industry rewards people for such blatant disregard to any semblance of professional ethics.

Yes movies and video games see delays (PS3 anyone). But television? Weekly series rely on hundreds of people to coordinate everything from film shoots to special effects to talk show appearances and are amazingly reliable. Far more complex than the few dozen of hands needed for the monthly comic book. And the delays don’t happen far along the assembly line. Either the writer hands the script in late or the artist takes months to draw. I hate waiting months for subplot to develop, characters to grow, and stories to resolve.

This lateness isn’t happening with small press comics done as labours of love. The best-selling comics every month, from Justice League of America to Green Lantern to Ultimates. Imagine what would happen if Jack Bauer skipped a week of the non-stop season of 24. Lost spent its second season running new episodes and reruns intermittently only to find that annoyed viewers. This season, the show ran six episodes before the New Year with the rest of the season to run uninterrupted through the spring. Magazines, newspapers, even my text messaged horoscope arrive on time every day, week, and month. Comic books accepting this lack of professionalism and respect for fans could be part of why comics just don’t sell that well.

Most Anticipated Geek-Out Moments of 2007, #5 – #1

Check out the top five Geek-Out Moments of 2007, continued from Part One. See the biggest moments in television, movies, and boy wizards.

5. Sci-Fi(nales)
How close with Galactica get to Earth? How will the cheerleader save the world? How annoying will Kim Bauer be this season? And who the hell are the Others already? We spent months watching these epic, serialized, nothing happens for the entire year waiting for the ultimate payoff. And here it comes. Come April and May, we’ll see the end of Heroes’ first season, an all-new season of 24 and Lost, and our only starship fix, Battlestar Galactica. And then the summer comes, just in time for 4400 and Project Runway (ok, maybe that one’s just me).

4. Spending the Summer at the Movies
Spider-Man 3. Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Harry Potter 5. Transformers. Fantastic Four 2. Ok, yeah the Transformers and Fantastic Four will probably disappoint, but we’ll still have to see them to criticize probably. And if you want to think bigger, we’ve got even more comic book movies than Comic Book Guy’s basement, from 300 to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to 30 Days of Night. Now if we could only find dates…

3. Spider-Man vs. Venom
While not picking favorites, Toby versus Topher will likely be the super-hero brawl of the year. Finally seeing Venom on the big screen, tongue lashing, tentacle swinging, 70’s Show joking, will make these many years of waiting, well, worth the waiting.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Cross your fingers. Rub your rabbit’s foot. Pray to whatever deity or Jedi you worship in the hopes that the final Harry Potter finally arrives. Who dies? Why is Harry so special? Will Ron and Hermione finally get together? All these answers and more await in the final installment of this classic wizard’s tale that units geeks with 6 year olds around the world.

1. Google vs. Microsoft
The titans of the digital world are heading for a clash of historic proportions. Microsoft’s Vista and Office 2007 head to stores with a bevy of innovative gadgets, along with a redesigned online presence through Windows Live. But Google, thus far unbeatable in online search, has dozens of projects from online television to its own operating system and web browser rumored to be heading to the market. Google’s power even leads to outlandish idea of Yahoo and Microsoft merging. But if things get competitive enough, nothing would be too far. And that will be the most exciting thing to watch all-year-long.