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Strip 601, Volume 4, Page 76


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< Piro >

the warm glow of the cute, evil timesink...

"computer 'smithing"

Saturday - August 21, 2004

[Piro] - 00:12:00 - [link here]

Last week I did something that i've been wanting to do for a while -- I stripped win2k off of my old Dell Inspiron 8100 laptop, wiped the hard drive and repartitioned it (after archiving a lot of junk i'll probably never need unless i actually delete it) and did a fresh install of winXP.

You might remember when i got this Dell about two and a half years ago. It's a potent, refurbished little beast that is more of a mobile desktop than a laptop (the bloody thing weighs 7.5 lbs). It came with Windows ME, which i didn't even boot up before i repartitioned and installed win2k over the top of it. This old Dell has been through a lot. It was the laptop that failed miserably in our attempt to show flash content at the first Naze Nani Megatokyo event at Otakon in 2002. I used it to process files for the first book. I did well over a year's worth of comics on it. Up till now, I haven't done a clean install of the operating system. As a result, there was the usual muck and clutter that slows down windows machines and makes them cry for the mercy of a fresh OS install.

Ever since I switched to the mac side of things, i have to say i've been enjoying not having to deal with the peculiarities of the windows operating systems. That isn't to say that macs don't have thier own peculiarities - they just seem to involve a lot less theatrics and drama than I was used to. I'm responsible for enough of my own drama that i don't need any from my computing platform. That said, there are things i i've missed not having windows as my main OS. All computing platforms have their own flavors, their own pluses and minuses, so i don't subscribe to the idea that one might be better than another. Even so, I did approach this rebuild with some apprehension.

Not because I haven't done windows installs before, it's just that with them you really sorta need to be current on things in the windows world to do things right. You know, all the tricks, settings, drivers, bits of twine, witches root and blood for sacrificial offerings to ensure a good build. Not really hard to do when you are using the platform, but you gotta do some research when you've been worshiping other gods for over a year :) I used to do regular rebuilds on an office full of Windows 3.1 machines running AutoCad, so i know how important this can be. The bad memories run deep.

The pleasant thing about XP, even over win2k, is how much easier it is to install. Good lord, its like night and day compared to the horror of a 3.1 install. Once you get past the... er, rather ugly (IMHO) colors of the basic XP theme, the interface shows a lot of small improvements. Once everything installed and even had the SP2 upgrades in place, it was like a different machine.

Given the fact that I have my mac G4 (Reki) at the Factory and my little 12" powermac (Hikari) for when I'm home, you might question exactly why i went to the trouble to rebuild the Dell (named Rakka -- see a pattern here? :P). Well, MT may not be a hardcore gaming comic like it sorta started out as, but that doesn't mean I don't miss playing games. I'm pretty much done traveling for the year (with the exception of Anime Weekend Atlanta next month, which Seraphim and I are going to), the store is up and running, the big crunch time of the past six months has started to level out... dammnit to hell, i deserve some friggin game time. :P

If you wanna hear from someone who is far more current and more on the cutting edge of games in play these days, you'll wanna read what Dom has to say about things. I'm a bit more behind the times. Not because i don't know what everyone is playing, it's just that I'm a little more quirky about the games i like to play. I rebuilt Rakka because i wanted to get back to playing Ragnarok Online.

Now, for everyone who has already started to write an email to me groaning about how RO is boring, or how much RO sucks, or how much Gravity sucks, or how i should be playing FFXI instead, save it. I like RO. I like RO because it's cute, it's quirky, its fun (for me) it meanders, and i like the feel of it. I don't play a game because others like it, i play it because i like it. Remember that old rant i wrote about "Generally Accepted Opinions"? Yeah, same thing.

The sad things about my little RO obsession is that i've wanted to get into the game for ages, but never really had the time. I tried during various beta phases. I tried when you had to pay to play during the beta phases. I wanted to play when all my friends were playing. Now, the game is out of beta and a fully released. the RO website doesn't suck anymore. All my friends have stopped playing. RO is "old news". I actually don't mind.

"I'll help you level up!" was what friends always used to tell me, but there was always a part of me that rebelled against that idea, at least initially. I wanted to do my time as a true noob and figure things out the hard way. Having someone walk me through everything just seemed... like it'd take the fun out of it. Part of that comes from a very single player mindset i suffer from. Kind of odd that'd i'd take so much interest in an online roll playing game :P

Anyways, i won't bore you with more details about learning the ropes while trying to level up out of being a novice. And even more odd is the fact that the extreme lateness of fridays comic had nothing to do with RO - i wish it did, that'd be a better excuse than the reason you're tired of hearing - struggled with the art, beat my head on the desk till the dialogue at least started to work. :)

< Dom >

Vampires and the erotic... that's a hackneyed subject for you.

"Sex, Games, and... More Sex"

Friday - August 27, 2004

[Dom] - 01:00:00 - [link here]

Edit: I've just been informed that BloodRayne isn't the only video game girl taking it off for PlayBoy--CNN Money Magazine has a more comprehensive list. So I'll be editing a few things on the fly here--my information was based solely on the BoingBoing and postings.

It's been three or four days since the announcement, and I'm still not quite sure what I'm supposed to think regarding BloodRayne's upcoming appearance in the October issue of PlayBoy, a first in the history of video games. I'm certainly going to try to make a point, or at least explore what I think about the whole thing.

This rant may be a bit reachy, and I'm not even sure where it'll go--so I'll start by establishing a few simple statements that form the foundation of my argument, if it is indeed an argument.

Statement the first: Sex sells.
- This one's easy enough. Sex is called the second oldest female profession, et cetera, et cetera. Nothing groundshaking, but let's keep going.

Statement the second: Vampires, at their root, represent repressed eroticism.
- This one also has a body of literatury theory devoted to it--just read Bram Stoker and Anne Ri... okay, just read Bram Stoker and you'll not only get the point, but have read a good book to boot.

Statement the third: PlayBoy is, at least to the American eye, a symbol of unabashed sex selling (amd selling well) in a Puritanical mainstream, not just in seedy hardcore stores.
- This one's a bit stickier, but hey, Hugh has been working for longer than I've been alive to get that status for his brainchild. And I've seen many an interview with women who've appeared topless in PlayBoy who don't think there's anything strange or wrong about posing topless for the magazine's pages. You may disagree with me here, but work with me... there's only one foundation left to lay before trying to link these all together.

Statement the fourth: Video games, once deemed the realm of the very young, are growing up with their audience.
- Again, not very hard to prove... Brian Fargo said in an interview with GamesDomain that "the average RPG player is about 30", while The Sims has also edged the age of the "average gamer" far above the 20 mark.

So what's my point? Well, games like Tomb Raider and Dead or Alive have always sold on the sex appeal of their digital femmes--gameplay is a secondary concern at best, especially in the case of Tomb Raider. But the mainstream game industry has always shied just short of the dreaded AO rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Sure, everyone knows that the games in question are selling based on sex, but God forbid that there be actual SEX in these games beyond a standard fade to black. M has always been the limit--games that merit an AO rating either ignore the ESRB and sell to straight to specialty stores, or are made by Peach Princess. I'm sure there are gaps in my knowledge of who else submits their erotic/pornographic games to the ESRB, but I don't go to said specialty stores, so I wouldn't know.

But there was a definite line, and crossing that line was tantamount to market death--the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (slogan: Not Quite PlayBoy, but Good Enough!) crowd's parents would immediately clamp down when that M morphed into an AO. And now here comes BloodRayne, and it's not just her fangs that are bared. People in the industry know that the generation of adolescent gamers, who once desperately wanted to believe in the infamous Tomb Raider nude code hoax, is long past the drooling pubescent period. They're old enough that they won't go screaming into the hills at the first sight of flesh--at least, that's the hope. And in the deal, PlayBoy and Majesco the companies involved get to claim that they've broken exciting new ground, then lean back with smug smiles as marketing bobbleheads start talking about whether THEIR game should be the next to try out this whole "bare your digital boobies for publicity" thing.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here babbling on and wondering "Is this a sign of things to come, or is it a minor event that doesn't bear too much further thought?"

Honestly? I don't know. I wish I did, because from where I stand, there are way too many things that can happen, and I can't account for all of them. But if this PlayBoy spread creates enough buzz for BloodRayne 2 and the other games that the game industry has to sit up and take notice, where will that leave the game industry? If it's proven that you can financially safely ignore the under-18 crowd and gain more from the AO rating than you lose, conventional wisdom will be turned on its head. We can safely assume that Nintendo will continue doing what it always has, but would BloodRayne's chest pave the way for a trickle of games unafraid of the AO? Would that trickle turn into a flood? Probably not, given the way American game retailers work--they get enough crap for selling M games to kids under 18, why risk letting people see AO? But what if game stores, like video rental places, started partitioning off a section and dedicated it to the adult audience? (I'm assuming that American game stores, unlike Japanese game stores, don't have the luxury of simply saying "The 2nd and 3rd floors are for the TV games, the adult games go on the 4th floor, and the anime is the 5th floor". Japan builds up... America builds out, so I can't imagine Gamestops across the nation adding a second floor and selling AO games there)

Oh, who'm I kidding, it's not going to happen like that. The game industry may move quickly, given its youth and its spurts of growth, but it's not going to endanger itself with a mass reinvention at this point. There's too much money involved in publishing and developing the current wave of games to risk endangering that cash flow for the sake of a much smaller market, and retailers get enough grief from child safety and protection groups without having to protect some beaded curtains leading to a fabled "back room".

But then again, the porn industry's numbers remain in the billions despite attempts to quash it, too...

Welp, we'll see, I guess. But that won't keep me from thinking about what could go wrong--or right--with the whole thing.


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