video games are hazardous to your health; ebola is not

We’re back!  After an unexplained 17 week absence.  We got a little turned around lately.  But we’re here again and ready to go.  Did you miss us?  No?  Oh.  We, ah, we thought folks missed us.  [cricket; cricket; cricket]

But you have to understand that even for the most jaded degenerate blog author, life has to take priority and can get out of hand.  We finally got divorced (there is a God) and I lost one of my dog buddies.  He will be missed, and is currently barking in Valhalla where he belongs.  Eh, it’s been a long few weeks.

So we’re here to write about what important topic to all humanity today?

– The World Cup (aka Uncle Vlad’s Guide to Effective Bribery of International Organizations 101)?

– The fact that immigration policies, procedures, and methods employed during the Obama administration are suddenly beyond the pale?

– The creation of Space Force (aka that thing that will never actually happen)?

– Chronic forthcoming global instability created by manic squirrels?

Wrong.

We’re here instead to briefly rant about the World Health Organization’s decision to state that playing video games is a classifiable addiction disorder.  Long term readers of this blog will be aware of two key facts:

1) I play a lot of video games.

2) I have a very low opinion of the WHO.

Granted, the WHO’s response to the recent ebola outbreak in Congo has been pretty good.  It seems they learned their lessons from the outbreak in West Africa a few years ago.  What could easily have turned into an even bigger nightmare if ebola had made its way down the river to Kinshasa (aka one of the biggest cities on Earth) seems to have been stopped in its tracks.  Good on them.

But then every once and a while the WHO reminds people how much money they burn on stupidity that could be spent vaccinating people against [insert anything here].  Hell, if video games are now an addictive disorder (as in the same category as nicotine) then we might as well classify drinking water as addictive.

Ever hear the term ‘everything in moderation’?  This is a pretty good term to live by.  Just about anything can be bad if you go at it too often.  You can even drink so much water that it kills you.  And your body is made up mostly of water.  But does that mean something is so powerful it can literally alter your body?

For example, I’m pretty sure if you play video games for a year your physical brain chemistry isn’t going to change.  If however, you decide to smoke crack for a year, I’m pretty sure you come out the back end of that year an entirely different person.

If you still don’t get where I’m going with this, just go ahead and put a crack addict and stand them next to even the most extreme South Korean player of StarCraft II.  I’m pretty sure you’ll see what I’m getting it.

Focus on ebola WHO, stop wasting my time.

geralt.jpg

“Hey there kiddies.  Wanna get high?”

Advertisements

Chasing the Chinese pink dragon

Great news everybody!  Chairman Xi’s new tome is out.  Entitled “The Governance of China II” it supposedly lays out all the answers you’ve been looking for in life, including:

1) How to interpret your place in a materialistic, existential world when your true calling is to become one with Xi Jinping Thought.

2) What happens to you when you assume your bleached skeleton status.

3) How Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics is the new Master Plan for Eternal Global One Man Rule.

4) Why The Walking Dead remains an active television show.

5) How thirteen year old Chinese girls who profess their love for K-Pop will be liquidated for crimes against the Party.

6) Why folks care about celebrities who they will never meet and who will never give them a single moment’s thought.

7) Obey.

8) Why royal weddings are a thing, even for people who are not British.  As a coworker said to us the other say, this is downright creepy.

And so on.

Please hold your applause at the awesomeness of all this.

xi clapping

[perfunctory clapping from crowd ensues, clapping continues incessantly until permission to stop clapping is given by a ringing bell]

But it’s all good, because estimates state that Xi has sold less than 100 copies of the hardcover version (the soul infused version is offered free) in Britain.  This means there are more people in Britain who are attempting to brew their own homemade Celtic barley wine in bathtubs than bought this book.

But don’t fret!  For a few weeks ago a big London shindig involved several hundred honored guests with the keynote address from Prince Andrew himself.  His Highness (not Highness) called Xi’s piece a “milestone”.  Oh my, what praise!

Now I’ve briefly met folks who have directly worked with Andrew and did not have a very high opinion of him to say the least.  So it could be that Andrew simply sold out.  Xi gave him straight cash to make a guest appearance at this event.  Kind of like how celebrities endorse deodorant.

But, let’s go ahead and give Andrew some credit and say that didn’t happen (cue laugh track).  What I think is happening is Andrew is either a complete idiot and actually likes Xi’s book (possible).  Or, he is sucking up to Xi in order to further Britain’s goal to get a post Brexit free trade deal with China.

Which brings us to the real point (cue laugh track) of this post.  Everybody is chasing the Chinese pink dragon.

For the uninitiated, the pink dragon is a reference to the use of narcotics in the 60’s.  As I was not alive then, I was first introduced to this concept by South Park where Stan literally chases a pink dragon in the video game Heroin Hero.

pink dragon.jpg

Everybody wants in on that sweet, sweet Chinese heroin.  Oh, I mean gold, yeah, gold.  Not heroin.  Or fentanyl.  [cricket; cricket; cricket]  So what you’re seeing more and more in the modern world is people losing their minds over a market of 1B people essentially commanded by one man.  Folks drool over it.  So much freaking money.

This is why Britain rolled out the gilded carpet last year when Xi visited and the world’s second true liberal democracy was left to shame itself by placing the flags of a dictatorship outside it’s royal palace.  Thus Andrew is just continuing the theme.

One of the video games I play is Gwent, which is an online card game published by CD Projekt Red.  It’s based on The Witcher 3 which many folks (myself included) consider the greatest video game of all time.  Gwent (to abbreviate) is your standard warriors and spells kind of card game.

Anyways, Marcin Iwiński is the co-founder and CEO of CD Projekt.  When interviewed in a documentary for Noclip, what did Iwiński say his number one priority was for Gwent?   What was his goal?  Wait for it: He wants Gwent to be a success in China.

I literally had to rewind the interview to make sure I’d heard him right.  Man, to be blunt:

– There are no Asians, let alone Chinese, in Gwent or The Witcher

Andrzej Sapkowsk wrote The Witcher series with a background of Polish culture, this culture is relatable even to dumb Americans like me because it’s still a part of our shared Western culture

– China has it’s own unique and special culture which does not easily translate to the Western mindset, and when you really try it hurts your head, trust me

And yet, Iwiński seems to think Gwent can win in China?  Iwiński even went to live in China for six months so he could learn the language and generally live there and get the culture.  He’s now back in Poland, I think because his family rebelled.

Iwiński is just like Andrew though, he’s chasing that dragon.  Even if it doesn’t make sense.  Other folks have tried chasing the dragon too.  How has that worked out for Uber, academic apologists, Google, Hollywood, Facebook, and so on.  Not so good.

I’m not saying folks in the West can’t influence or pull gold from China, I’m just saying it’s really, really hard.  My take is that certain people in the West might be interested in Xi and China, but that Xi and China aren’t interested in them.  China’s on it’s own very carefully crated plan and agenda, like it or hate it.  And Xi and China don’t give a shit what anybody thinks about it.

Good luck to Andrew and Britain, but they’re not getting a post Brexit deal out of China.  Good luck to Iwiński, but I don’t see Gwent working in China.

You never catch the dragon.  Even Stan eventually figured this out, even after Randy Marsh is caught playing Heroin Hero too.  Stan: “You don’t ever catch the dragon, Dad!”

contemplating Sean Bean’s imminent demise

Sean Bean partially narrates this game I’m playing and it got me chuckling.  Once upon a time folks got to see Sean Bean brutally decapitated in Game of Thrones (that show I no longer watch).  This was the first of many main character deaths in that horror fetish of a series.  But at the time folks tried to rationalize what had just occurred.  I specifically remember saying to my brother, “It’s that much more dramatic because it’s Sean Bean.”

Wait, what?  That’s probably one of the dumber things I’ve ever said.  And man, do I spout some dumb shit.

For you see, Sean Bean does in fact die in everything he’s in.

And here’s even a Funny Or Die skit where Sean expresses his desire for a piranha based doom.

Sean Bean is only 58 years old, but perchance before he hits 60, he’ll be attacked by aliens.  They won’t come to conquer Earth, they’ll just come for Sean Bean.  And he’ll probably be smiling.

“Oh, hay there lads, got a ray gun I see?  Well, make it slow, if ya can.”

a comparison in game shows; and the global stage

Once upon a time there was this weirdo game show that dumb kids like me could watch called Legends of the Hidden Temple. Perhaps some of you remember this from your glory days of childhood football, candy, school lockers, and bad 90’s pop bands. This was during the highlight days of Nickelodeon, 1993-1995. A simpler entertainment era before the crushing reality of the Internets would consume all our lives.

The show featured six teams of two kids (one boy, one girl) who competed in some type of fake Mayan temple. They had to conduct physical feats, answer riddles, and generally do hard stuff. The show apparently had tough tryouts. Hosted by game show robot Kirk Fogg, it also had a second quasi host in a large stone talking head, former Simpsons basement dweller, five time convicted sex offender, Indiana Jones veteran, and jai-li extraordinaire Olmec. Olmec talked to the kiddies and gave them a background on the history of the artifact they had to find in the actual hidden temple challenge at the end of the show.

legends.jpg

Olmec tells Kirk that his glowing red eyes are actually a brain tumor.

I enjoyed this show because it was different, entertaining, had history, and was extremely competitive. In only 22 minutes of air time they had to cull the flock with 10 of 12 children summarily dismissed from play. In the first two minutes of the show four kids are eliminated in the moat challenge. In all their lives these kids might be on national television only once, and they’re gone in only two minutes. The knowledge test was next, that milled an additional four young ones. After a quick third round they got down to the final two who competed in the temple. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this right, but I seem to recall that the temple itself was hard, a substantial portion of participants lost. Turns out I’m right, the Huffington Post says only 32 of 120 teams (26%) actually won the whole thing.

legends 2.png

Would they ever make a kid’s game show again that required the use of helmets and mouthguards?

legends 3.png

Kirk explaining to these two, that since they made it this far, it indicates their likelihood of becoming future billionaires has increased by 723%.

It was a neat show, but it couldn’t have made much money because they cancelled it after only three seasons. Nobody would never make such a show again. After more than two decades, the following factors are disqualifying in our modern newfangled era:

– The show would be deemed racist for its cartoon depiction of various Amerindian cultures.

– When about 1/3 of American children are chronically obese, I’m not sure they could roll out a game show that required this level of childhood physical brutality.

– Nobody knows anything about history anymore, so those knowledge questions are out. I figure at least 78% of American children today think we fought the Redcoats in the Civil War.

– They would never get away with that level of competition, cutting 10 kids in 22 minutes. Today they would only drop 2 kids and both of them would still get trophies or some other kind of big consolation prize.

In other words, several key skills which I consider essential to a reasonably functioning society are lost from a modern kid game show. Specifically:

1) Physical fitness

2) A decent knowledge of history

3) The ability to comprehend that life is a vicious mill fest of suck, and while knowing that, still press on and do great things

Nickelodeon currently broadcasts only one game show. It’s called Paradise Run, and is made by the same production company that did Hidden Temple. I give you this description from Wikipedia:

At the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii, three teams of two children race around the Hilton Waikola Village competing in three different challenges that are given to them by Daniella Monet through the tablets that are provided for them. The teams are sorted by Team Makani, which is Hawaiian for “wind”, Team Nalu, which is Hawaiian for “wave”, and Team Ahi, which is Hawaiian for “fire”. The first team to complete all three challenges wins a four-day, three-night trip at the hotel while the runner-ups receive consolation prizes. During the completion of the challenges, they must take a selfie on a tablet and send it to Daniella. Once all three challenges are completed, they must solve a riddle. The riddle’s answer is a suite where Daniella and the parents of the teams are waiting, and the team must race there.

I’ve not seen this show, so I suppose it could be awesome. But I doubt it. Note these key points that make me want to vomit in my mouth:

a) Naked corporate sponsorship in a game show made for children

b) Only six children compete, instead of twelve, thus reducing the elimination factor by 50%

c) They use fucking tablets, which they use to take selfies, …, for fuck’s sake

d) The losers receive prizes

e) The game’s end state is nothing more than a hotel room prize directly related to said sponsorship

f) The limp wristed title

paradiserun.jpg

Note the difference in contestant attire between this and Hidden Temple.  Specifically the lack of helmets, mouthguards, gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, and anything else requiring the children to do more than tap a tablet.

[claps hands in an empty room]

Where am I going with this, I mean other than to rant about game shows? Well, two places. In case you haven’t noticed, the world is a shit show right now. Two things in particular yesterday and today, the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire, and Syria.

You’ve got Kerry out there giving a speech on Israel. And you’ve got a Syria cease fire done today where Turkey, Iran, Russia, the Rebels, and Syria basically did a deal without America in the room.

You know, I kind of agree with a lot of what Obama and Kerry preach. Some of Kerry’s comments on Israel’s potential darkening religious nuthouse path are spot on. And you can make a valid and reasonable argument that Obama’s path of non-intervention in Syria was the best course among all the terrible options. But you know what doesn’t help, the messengers. Obama and Kerry have to be about the worst people to deliver this tact in American foreign policy.

Kerry comes off on the podium like that pretentious uncle who always complains too much and nobody listens to. Obama’s professorial pauses are enough to elicit yawns from even the most jaded of international diplomats. These two guys would have hated Legends of the Hidden Temple. Paradise Run seems right up their alley.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a thank god they’re leaving so Trump can fix things message. Trump wouldn’t watch Legends of the Hidden Temple because it would require him to sit still for 22 minutes and not run his mouth. Trump is not the answer to this, and in any case, he’s such an outlier to the general American leadership psyche.

So I guess where I’m going is this is a lament. Obama and Kerry I think are more along the lines of the leaders that American culture is inclined to produce in the future. A bunch of ultimately weak people unfit to deal with the dangers of this planet. If you believe in a planet that should walk a path of growing freedom and democracy, that should be enough to trouble you, because nobody but America can guide that path.

Would they ever make something like Legends of the Hidden Temple ever again? I think not. Will America ever return to the global stage as a strong leader again? I hope so. But I fearfully wonder, what if not?

aleppo.jpg

Don’t dial America, it won’t answer, it’s too busy watching the delights of Paradise Run.

On Nazi gold, trains, Wolfenstein, and Indy

So a pair of lunatics are digging up part of a Polish mountain thinking they’ll find a lost Nazi gold train in there. A bunch of smart dudes say there’s no train in there, but whatever, these two dudes are going to dig anyways. Good for them. At least they have a goal for their lives. I know I sure don’t. Maybe they’ll find a gold train, maybe they’ll find nothing, or perhaps they’ll just find an awfully large number of bugs. Or maybe they’ll find Mecha Hitler:

Mecha Hitler

Dude should have brought more than just a knife before digging up a Nazi tunnel.

 

 

The possible existence of said train is called local folklore or whatever. Meaning it might not have ever actually existed, but folks said it did. Or it became a rumor, a legend, worthy of exploration. Indiana Jones 5 needs this plot. Apparently Harrison Ford is going down this road again even though he’s now 89 years old. The fourth Indy movie is perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever seen. So Indy needs to get back to his non-awful-alien-movie roots. Who doesn’t hate Nazis? Indy sure does, he told us. The movie can still take place in the 1960’s, it just has to involve the gold train, Nazis, and somebody other than Ford to do all the punching.

Mecha Indy

Remember when Harrison Ford / movies were this cool?

 

Hey speaking of hating Nazis, the latest games I’ve been playing are the two recent ones from Bethesda: Wolfenstein The New Order & The Old Blood. After being stuck in a bit of a rut playing games that ended up as shit, or had garbage endings, or got trapped in Open World Hell, I find these two games to be rather delightful and refreshing:

 

1) No Moral Ambiguity Bullshit – you get to shoot freaking evil Nazis

 

2) A Clear Plot – you fight to stop the evil Nazis

 

3) A Clear Objective – you don’t have to walk around an open world for 43 minutes trying to figure out what the fuck to do

 

4) A Decent Ending – bask in the glory of a video game that doesn’t have an ending bathed in weirdness, nihilism, total nonsense, or an attempt by the designers to appear smarter than you

 

So I’m calling it right now, the next Wolfenstein game needs this plot too. They find a Nazi gold train. Wind up plot. Go.

Mecha Me.png

We know Indy, we hate Nazis too.  So we follow your holy example.

my version is free

I’ve never played Pokemon Go.  I never will.  So this post is more an observation vice a review.  Although if actually reviewing said game as a game, instead of a piece of likely clever and ingenious technology, I’d give it negative twelve stars.

I don’t get the human race.  Sometimes I feel like a darn alien inhabited my brain.  And he’s looking around at the goings on and he’s like, “What?  Huh?”  But basically, Pokemon Go is augmented reality.  Not a true game.  Not true virtual reality.  Something in between.  I’ll spare you the details.

But basically you walk around the real world and see the real world, but Pokémon is there too.  You can see him.  He’s over there getting fries at the drive thru window and you have to go up and say hi to him.  Or whatever.

It took humanity’s greatest leaps in technology to make this happen.  And even then servers are still crashing.  So instead of using all our powers to battle cancer or go back to the Moon, we’ve got finding Pokemon down by the Sizzler.  Uh, okay.

Hey you know what, I’ve got an even better version of Pokemon Go.  And my version is free.  It’s also augmented reality.  It’s called my freaking imagination.  Instead of picturing Pokemon, I get to pretend I’m battling dragons, or passed out drunk on the curb, or exploring this thing called a forest when I hike through it after removing the battery from my smartphone first.

Put down Pokemon Go.  Pick up your imagination.  You shall not regret it.

stupidity

What I see inside my head is 1,700 times as detailed and 1,300 more fun.  I win.

virtual, what?

So this photo of Facebook’s Overlord got quite a bit of undeserved attention as, or so folks said, an example of the Giant Octopus getting its claws into everybody’s souls.  I think people got unnerved that they all had headsets on, and then Zuckerberg’s got this creepy smile on his face like he’s ready to drive humanity using a giant joystick.

oculus-1200x799

I mean, I guess.  It’s certainly not a good look for Facebook.  And I think I’d be genuinely uncomfortable in a room alone with Zuckerberg unless I was armed.  But I’m just not sure what the problem is?  Dude’s just showing off his fancy new product, of course they’re all supposed to wear it.

What is this virtual reality thing anyways?  I’m having a hard time understanding how this is supposedly the new thing.  Are people supposed to design buildings, drive cars, or shoot people in video games or what?  I can’t get around the concept that regardless of what you put on somebody’s skull, what they see and hear, that unless you put them in a giant custom built warehouse you run into the problem that people have to actually walk, move, etc, the touch and smell part.

So I think this’ll become a niche thing, expensive and little used.  So rich 10 year old Jimmy and his friends will play Mass Effect in a warehouse at his birthday party.  Ford will allow you to drive their new car on the track built like you’re driving around Mars.  And so on.

Will virtual reality go mainstream?  I just don’t see it.  And in any case, virtual reality is already here in its own way.  When you’re in the airport waiting area and 98% of folks are buried in their smartphones, that’s virtual reality to me.  They’ve all checked out.

In the same line of thinking, here’s another shot, as an example of one that a teacher of mine tried to sell as an example of fear of progress.

giant gear.jpg

This is not the original shot my teacher used, I couldn’t find that one.  Don’t ask me why I remember this lesson and yet can’t remember the date England separated the head of their king.  The same basic concept, a human standing next to a big gear, as an example of the smallness of humanity compared to our own massive creations.  That we’d devalued the human form into just a gear, a cog of the machine.  At the time I’m like, uh, maybe, I guess.  But we need big gears don’t we?  Ships use them to sail around and stuff.  Our #2 pencils (remember those) rode a ship from China to get here.  So what’s the big deal?

Put another way, it’s progress.  In 1963 you couldn’t talk with your friends while you waited at the airport.  Now you can.  That’s kind of cool.  Yet folks can get freaked out by progress, I mean, I’m certainly one of them.  So virtual reality’s going to rub some people the wrong way.  It’s going to be a bit controversial, just you wait.  You pick a topic, it’ll be there in its own way.

Let it.  It might be weird and little used, but it’s still progress.