Monday, December 12, 2011

The Bears' Season Is Over

The Chicago Bears have lost three straight games following starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, suffering what appears to be a season-ending thumb injury. To have a chance at a playoff birth, the team has to win all three of its remaining games and one of those games is against the undefeated Green Bay Packers. This season is all but lost.

Over the past several years, the Bears have proven to be completely inept from the top down. Bad contracts have been given out, terrible drafts have been made, and seemingly simply tasks have been made to look incredibly difficult (i.e. having someone actually call in a trade during the draft instead of allowing time to expire). Last night's loss to the Denver Broncos proved this even more.

Late in the game runningback, Marion Barber, went out of bounds which kept the clock from running and essentially gave time back to Denver. You learn in high school or maybe even middle school, to stay in bounds in that situation. At the same time, the coaching staff has to make sure that their players know what to do and they failed their duty.

Also, the Bears' defense didn't know what it was doing. There were times when the players on the field attempted to play two different coverages, not knowing which one they were supposed to be doing. All of this led to blowing a 10 point lead and losing 13-10 in overtime.

The team's injuries to Matt Forte and Jay Cutler over the past few weeks have made the Bears show their true colors. They have no depth, the don't have a number two quarterback worthy of seeing the field, the receivers are bad, the offensive line is bad, they lack talent, and they lack coaching. It is time to start over.

It is looking more and more likely the team will finish with a losing record of 7-9. Maybe ownership fill finally unload general manager, Jerry Angelo, head coach, Lovie Smith, and the rest of both of their staffs. This is not a team built to win long-term or a team prepared to win a super bowl. Over the past few years, they have looked just good enough to pass the eye-test for most people, but the Bears were really just fooling everyone. "Begin again."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Is It Wrong?

Is it wrong to listen to the same song over 200 times in two days? I don't think so.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Today, California based rock band, Korn, released its 10th studio album. The album entitled "The Path of Totality" takes the band's sound in a new direction. It is still heavy, it is still metal, but the band features a dub-step dj/producer on each of the 13 new tracks. Even though I'm a long-time Korn fan, I really wanted to hate this album, but I can't. I'm digging it.

"Let's Go", "Sanctuary", and "Narcissistic Cannibal" are all worthy of listening to on repeat. I was worried that this new sound would be too great of a departure from what makes Korn Korn, but it isn't. The band has managed to successfully immerse dub-step and drum-step into their sound as if it were effortless. While I do enjoy this album, I hope that this isn't the future of Korn. I am fine with them including some of these sounds and experiments in future works, but I don't want another album that is all dub-metal.

For now, I'm just going to keep my headphones on and enjoy this very intriguing new music.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Another Brilliant Idea: Party System

Why do we have two political parties? Politics is not black and white, but we try to make it that way. For everything our party system gets right, there is something that it gets wrong. We need an update. America has had to make changes over its 200 plus years, why not make another one?

Right now, so many times, politicians vote based on party lines and make decisions based on party beliefs, even if they don't support those beliefs. The two-party system has broken down. Nothing gets done because republicans and democrats can't get along. Its always a stalemate unless one party gets more power than the other. If then, that just happens in the short term. Eventually, the power shifts and then that party makes it miserable for the other one. Lets just get rid of parties.

It could be chaotic if not handled properly, but we don't need parties, do we? People wouldn't have to follow a particular party structure or pledge allegiance to a single believe system with no room for change. In America, we support people being themselves and being individuals (supposedly). Right now, politically, we don't allow for that to happen. This structural change would enable people to be themselves.

While we're at it, lets get rid of national conventions. The Democratic and Republican national conventions used to serve a purpose; they used to announce each party's candidates for the presidency. Now, we already know who the candidates are by the time the conventions come around. So, millions of dollars are spent on announcing nothing. It would more smarter and more economically to spend that money on almost anything else (literally). In a down economy, we can't afford to waste even more money.

Feel free to start poking holes in this "brilliant idea."


Will there ever be playoffs in college football? I hope so, but I don't think so. Division 1 football is the only college sport left without a playoff system in place. Even lower divisions of football have playoffs. If the NFL adopted the NCAA's bowl system, fans nationwide would be outraged.

The current system does not always do what it is supposed to do. The lone job of the bowl system is (supposed) to be to put the two best teams against each other in the National Championship game. Schools like Boise State, Utah, and Texas Christian don't get a fair shot in this system. This year, 7th ranked Boise State was left out of a BCS bowl. That means four times in the last eight years, they were ranked in the top 10 and left out. The Big East can keep cranking our mediocre teams and still get automatic bids into BCS games. This isn't supposed to happen. There has to be a systematic change.

There can still be playoffs and bowl games. Schools, networks, and the NCAA can still make way more money than they deserve. Player's academics won't have to be affected anymore than they already are. The are tons of ways to make it would and I'll leave it up to people smarter than me to decide on which way is best. 

All I am saying is that a playoff system would better benefit the fans (get to watch more meaningful games with better matchups), better for the networks ("March Madness" in NCAA basketball gets huge coverage, why wouldn't this?), better for the schools (more national exposure), and better for the players (again, more exposure and greater chances of making it to the NFL. Players would be able to showcase their skills on a bigger stage and provide more tape for NFL scouts and executives.) So, why hasn't this happened yet and when will it?

"Bittersweet Symphony"

Ron Santo has finally been voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The former Cubs' third baseman failed to make it in during his 15 years of eligibility Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. The Veterans Committee also had several chances to vote him in, but declined. Today, Santo was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday by the Golden Era Committee.

He needed 12 of the 16 voters to select him to get in and 15 voted for him. By the numbers, most people around baseball (outside of the voters) had argued that Santo should be a hall of famer for years. Santo himself, never complained about not making it in. Cubs fans everywhere can rejoice that number 10 is finally in the hall, but the Golden Era Committee was still too late. Santo died on December 3rd last year, making the celebration bittersweet.

Rest in peace, Ron Santo. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

When Can I See Master Chief Throw A Plasma Grenade at Marcus Fenix?

Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series has been hugely successful. There have been three games in the series thus far and it looks like there will be more in the future. Recently, rumors were confirmed that Sony is finally making their own Supper Smash Bros. style game for the PS3. Naturally, people are creating their own wish lists for characters to feature in the game and everyone is taking guesses as to who will make this final cut. Still, I haven't heard anyone ask this question: what about Microsoft?

I love gaming, but it's expensive. This means that I can only afford to have one console and I decided on an Xbox 360. Why not create a game where Master Chief (Halo), Marcus Fenix (Gears of War), and Commander Shepard (Mass Effect) get to beat up on each other? The knock on the PS3 is that it does not have a lot of great PS3-exclusive games, but the 360 does, meaning it has great 360-exclusive characters as well.

I would totally buy this game if it ever came to exist; I'd even pre-order it. The original Super Smash Bros. was one of the first games that I played when I first had my Nintendo 64 (N64) as a kid. I would go crazy for a modern day, 360 equivalent. Hey, Bill Gates. Make this happen.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

PETA vs. Mario . . . Mario Wins

Not long ago I wrote about how The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was after Battlefield 3 for allowing players to kill rats with a knife during the campaign. I felt that if PETA was going to do that, they might as well start attacking just about every game in the industry for something. This week, they attacked the beloved Super Mario, then backed off.

The new Super Mario 3D Land was released recently and one of Mario's many power-ups is the Tanooki Suit. This suit grants Mario the ability to glide through the air after he jumps and it has been a core power-up in many Super Mario games since the 1990's. It has always been clear that the suit is somewhat of a jump suit or costume, not actual fur, but PETA thought otherwise.

PETA released their own game, titled "Mario Kills Tanooki." In the game, you play as a skinned tanooki running and jumping after Mario, trying to get your skin back from him as he flies across the screen. The game portrays Mario and Marioland as being blood thirsty and gory.

PETA points out that tanooki are real life racoon dogs that are often times skinned alive for their furs. I am not endorsing that and neither is Mario. I personally did not even know that tanooki were a real animal and neither did anyone that I talked to about this. We all just assumed it was something made up for the series. I'm pretty sure than when I was playing my Super Nintendo (SNES) as a kid, I was not thinking about skinning are killing animals.

This is not the first time that PETA has released a game parodying another game. The title, Super Meat Boy, is a downloadable game that has grown quite popular. PETA created Super Tofu Boy to combat it. However, no one plays PETA's games. They get some media attention because they frustrate a lot of gamers, but they are boring, poorly constructed games. PETA is not really helping their causes attacking the industry.

Within days of releasing Mario Kills Tanooki, PETA backed off, saying that their game was meant to be "tongue in cheek." They told Mario fans to "relax" and explained that their spinoff game was meant to be a fun way to address a serious issue. There is one problem with that; there is nothing fun about playing a game as a bloody, skinned animal chasing an iconic video game hero across a nightmarish version of that same character's home turf. Nothing at all is fun or funny about that.

PETA had their sights set on Mario and missed badly. They bit off more than they could chew. It will be interesting to see how they address the video game industry going forward.

Here are links to an article about PETA's game and an article about PETA backing off of their Mario claims.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some of My "Brilliant" Ideas

Occasionally, I'll think up something that I consider to be groundbreaking. Some of these ideas fade fast, while others float around my mind for years. However, each one of these brilliant ideas often times has at least one major flaw that I simply didn't realize when I first conceived the idea.

One idea that I had about a month ago involved our current roads and how they affect water. Asphalt can be a problem, particularly in cities. Rainwater can't get absorbed by it, so the rain doesn't make it back into the ground water supply, lowering the water table, and causing floods. So, I thought, "wouldn't it be amazing if at some point, someone, somewhere, invented a replacement for asphalt that can be used for roads and absorb water."

Later, I realized that if it could absorb water, it would most likely be able to absorb other liquids, too and that could be a problem. It would be pretty bad if antifreeze and all of the other chemicals that reach out streets, seeped into the groundwater.

My most recent idea is about agricultural fines. There are all kinds of fines for pollution and simply not running your farm how it is supposed to be run. However, many of these fines are too small for a lot of people to even care, so they do what they aren't supposed to do anyway. Also, some of the fines aren't properly enforced, causing more problems. I propose that fines be based off of income. Instead of fining everyone $1,000, why not fine a specific percentage (say 10%) of their income?

It would be fair because everyone would be paying the same percentage, so it wouldn't affect small operations more than factory farms and everyone should actually care about the money they would lose. So far, I have yet to discover any major faults with this idea, but I am sure that one will arise soon enough. Until then, I'll just keep thinking that I'm brilliant.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Just Take Your Time And Make a Better Game

Over the past several years, it has become commonplace for major gaming titles to have annual release, but I wish it would end. If it is not a sports game, I don't want a new one to come out every single year, so stop it. Please, game developers, take your time and build a deeper, better, more polished game. Game publishers, don't push game developers to speed up the process. Meals that take all day to make are much more enjoyable than 90-second meals and games are the same way.

The Call of Duty series has been cranking out a new game every year since it has grown in popularity. Multiple game developers create the games, taking turns with each new addition to the series, so they do have a little more time, but it still isn't a lot of time. It is difficult to make a ground-breaking came in a year and a half. Little has changed over the past four games.

Many are saying that Modern Warfare 3 (which debuted yesterday) feels old. It runs on the same graphics engine that Modern Warfare 2 ran on when it came out two years ago. To survive in any business, you have to innovate. Despite this, Modern Warfare 3 is little different than 2 or even 1 and it is still thriving.

The Assassin's Creed series is another franchise that has grown greatly as new games have been released. There is even an Assassin's Creed movie going into production. Assassin's Creed is now following in Call of Duty's footsteps. Assassin's Creed: Revelations will come out later this month. Last year, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was released. Assassin's Creed 3 has already been announced and will be coming out in time for the 2012 holiday season. Will the series get watered down?

There were two years between the release of Battlefield 3 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. There were five years between Battlefield 3 and its prequel, Battlefield 2. Before BF3 was released, its developer, DICE, said that the Battlefield series wouldn't receive annual releases. I breathed a sigh of relief when I first heard the news and was thankful for a breath of fresh air; that might have been pre-mature.

This week, the president of Electronic Arts (EA; the publisher that released BF3), Frank Gibeau, announced that we should expect a BF4. BF3 has only been out for three weeks, so I hope this announcement doesn't mean BF4 will come out next year. Will this ever end?  

As gamers, we owe it to ourselves to push those who make the games we buy to create something worth owning. We should push developers to push themselves to work harder. So, why don't we?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Please PETA, Leave My Video Games Alone

The German branch of PETA has made the video game, Battlefield 3, its latest target. They are upset because during the campaign of the game, players are allowed to kill rats with their combat knife and toss them away. As much as I don't like what's going on, I can understand it coming from PETA. But, if you are going to say that video games condone animal cruelty, then you have to call out all video games.

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players can shoot chickens and watch feathers fly around. In Fable 1, 2, and 3, gamers fight off wolves. Every year, Cabella comes out with a new hunting game. If PETA is going to get mad at Battlefield 3, why stop there? Just be anti-gaming. PETA could argue that virtul violence involving imaginary animals is wrong, too.

If fantasy violence is out of the question, role-playing games would die, fantasy and adventure games would diminish, and maybe even The Sims series would end because players could kill off their own pets. The problem with PETA attacking Battlefield 3 is that there is no place to "draw the line," allowing the possibility of things getting completely carried away. And of course if you call out games, then you have to address movies, television, books, comics, etc. etc. etc. It would never end. So, PETA, please stay away from my video games and do some work to actually protect animals.

Here is a link to the article that brought this to my attention.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Love Music and I Hope it Loves Me, Too

I love music. I listen to it everyday and I freakout when my ipod is misplaced (like right now. I haven't seen it in several days.). The music I listen to can change to mood I'm in or reinforce the feeling that I have. If I'm stuck in a rut, I can start playing some Korn or get nostalgic with some old Linkin Park and everything gets a little better.

Theres just nothing like hearing a beloved song on the radio and getting lost in the riffs and melodies. Some of your best times can be had jamming out to music with friends (or alone). There are always those songs (or sometimes just parts of songs) that get to you every time you hear them. You may not even know why, but there's something about the song that reaches you at a deeper level and that is something that doesn't disappear. There is simply nothing like music.

Music is creative and artistic. It can be premeditated or completely spontaneous. Sometimes it is totally serious and other times it makes no sense whatsoever. It can make you sing, dance, laugh, cry, smile, or enter a mosh pit. Music is capable of bringing the masses together or give people something else to hate. Like anything, there is a good and a bad, a ying and a yang; there's balance.

Over the years, my musical tastes have changed, but many bands have never faded away. I first listened to Korn when I was in 6th or 7th grade and they are still one of my favorite bands. I started listening to Linkin Park even earlier than that and occasionally I'll still go back and listen to one of their albums in its entirety. Some things never change.

Concerts (although they have their bad moments) have given me some amazing experiences that I've been able to share with friends and loved ones. I've also been lucky enough to meet some of those I've looked up to and they have never let me down.

My love and passion for music is why I want to create it. Music have given me so much during my 20 (almost 21) years and I feel obligated to give back to it. Of course, I get something more out of the exchange as well. Writing music gives me another creative output (like this blog) that I wouldn't be able to get writing for a campus magazine or doing a term paper for a journalism class. Plus, it is an amazing thing to be able to share your work with people you care about (once you stop worrying about whether or not they like it, anyway.).

No matter what happens with school and my career, no matter where I live or who I live with, music will always be there for me. Music will always be a huge part of my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, October 31, 2011

"The Only Thing to Fear, is Fear Itself"

Fear. Fear is an intricate and confusing thing. It can destroy relationships, dreams, or even lives if you let it. We all fear something. It could be something small (or at least what others see as small). It could be huge. It doesn't matter. It is okay to be afraid sometimes, but it is incredibly important to manage your fear. Without doing so properly, you are not only hurting yourself, but those around you.

During my 20 years on this earth, I have allowed fear to dictate my actions. Whether it is fear of failure or rejection, it has always been there to hold me back. Fear has forced me to never learn some things, forget other things, miss opportunities, and allow potential friendships/relationships to crumble (that is, if fear ever let them begin in the first place). Fear is a tricky thing that I have struggled to control in life. I thought that I had it on a tight leash, but I might be the one on the leash.

At times I have encouraged myself to step up, at other times I have failed to address the issue; this is not one of those times. Sometimes, you have to take a leap of faith and believe that someone (including yourself) will be there to catch you. I have never allowed myself to make that jump. Right now, I vow to myself to regain control of my actions. Starting right now, I will work to manage my cluster of continuous fears that hold me back. After all, "the only thing to fear, is fear itself."

I’m Excited, But Should I Be?: Part 3 Yes . . . and no

Alright, so I’ve had Battlefield 3 in my possession for a full week and when I was in Iowa City over the weekend, I played it quite a bit. It is everything that I thought it would be. Multiplayer is where it is at and it is great. BF3 is possibly the most intense and most exhilarating first-person shooter I’ve ever played. The maps are ginormous, the vehicles deadly, the weapons varied, and the battles epic. Despite all of this, BF3 simply isn’t as fun as a Call of Duty game . . . which is why I’m excited for Modern Warfare 3.
By no means will I trade in BF3 anytime soon and I’m not going to spring for MW3 as soon as it comes out (patience my friend), but BF3 simply isn’t as fun as Call of Duty. It is a phenomenal experience, but it isn’t the kind of game that I can casually play with friends. The game is so intense with craziness going on somewhere at all times. It is great to have something fresh added to the current FPS scene, but I still crave more.
Once again, the over-hyping continues and nothing is ever enough. We’ll have to see if MW3 can cure the itch. 

"What Does This Mean?"

Everyday, we listen to music that we don’t know the meaning of. It could be that we know the lyrics, but don’t understand the message (if there is one) of the song. More often than not, we are jamming to a song on the radio, in the car and we have no idea what words are being sung. That can lead to trouble.
Okay, here are lyrics from the choruses of two different songs:
“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks 
You'd better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks 
You'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks 
You'd better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks 
You'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet”
“I'm someone else
I'm someone new
I'm someone stupid just like you
I'm someone else
I'm someone new 
I'm someone stupid just like you”
One of these songs is about a school shooting. One of these songs is written by Marilyn Manson. Manson didn’t write the school shooting song. 
The new song by up and coming rock band, Foster The People, entitled “Pumped Up Kicks” is a song that most parents wouldn’t want their kids to listen to. Many are offended (to say the least) by the likes of Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga and they make it known. “Pumped Up Kicks” is a song that has been getting a lot of radio play lately and is considered by many to be a catchy tune. Very few have had anything negative to say about it and even fewer still have pulled it from the airwaves. 
You don’t have to lookup the lyrics to every new song that comes out (some people mess up the lyrics anyway), but I think that before you sing, or dance to, or download a song, it would be a good idea to find out what is being said. It may change how you feel about the song. Then again, it may not.

All-Hallows Eve

Once a year it is socially acceptable to dress like your favorite movie character, cross-dress, or wear almost nothing at all. And that night is tonight. What motivates us to dress up? We aren’t kids anymore. As comedian, Lewis Black, has pointed out; grownups don’t need to ask for permission to dress up anymore. You can walk into work on Monday dressed as Batman. It might not go so well, but you can do it. So what drives us?
Maybe some people are saddened by their own reality and use this one night to escape to another world. Maybe some whom may be considered prudish, decide to dress as a playboy bunny for one night to show another side of themselves. Of course, it’s possible that many people just use Halloween as an excuse to drink or smoke (as if they wouldn’t have done that anyway).
It is a simple question of little importance, but nonetheless, it is still a question that I have for our society and I don’t think that it will ever be answered. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Car, Monica

I currently own a 2001 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 that my grandparents bought me about a year and a half ago. Her name is Monica (yes, I named my car). She has a green exterior with a silver and bronze pinstripe on one side (it has faded off the other side) and a light gray interior with uncomfortably “firm” leather seats. In little over a year's time I have added about 10,000 miles to this car. I’ve flown across interstate 80, skidded over ice, and gotten lost in the rain. I have had some good (and bad . . . but mostly good) times in this car, but if I knew what I know now when I was looking for a car, Monica would still be sitting at the dealer.
Right now, I am somewhat knowledgable about cars. You may even call me a “petrol head” if you will. I haven't always been this way. Back in May of 2009, I felt like a deer in the headlights when I was looking for a car. I needed one fast (I had about two weeks) and it was just me and my mom looking around town. We went to a few dealers and test drove several cars. Some of these cars were nice, but were ultimately out of my price range. Others spewed smoke out of the air vents and smelt putrid. After several days, I settled on Monica and I was just glad to have my own set of wheels.

At the time, she seemed like a great buy. We were told (several times) that she hadn’t been in any accidents and were shown her “Carfax” to confirm that. She had some scratches and scuffs, but was in good shape. The interior was nothing special to speak of, but it was solid. Besides the price (somewhere around $4,000), she had low mileage for being almost 10-years-old (about 55,000 miles). Everything seemed just dandy. 
Within a week, the power seats on the drivers side broke. A month later, one of the rear windows jammed. Winter break that year, Monica had costly transmission problems (literally). By April, the same problems returned, but this time her transmission had to be completely replaced. The radio bugs out, her check engine light is on, and the speakers on one side of the car don’t work. Actually, as I am typing this, she is sitting in a shop here in Ames that is working on her transmission again. 
This past spring, I found out that I had been deceived. I found the real Carfax and it showed that my car had been in an accident within two years of being on the road. She had also had electrical problems multiple times and was frequently in the shop. It also came to my attention that she was onto her third transmission in 10 years and that there is a chance that her odometer has been rolled back (meaning she may have more miles on her than I thought). It is a mess. Since I have owned Monica, over $3,000 has gone into fixing her. I could have bought another cheap car for that.
I don’t think that everyone has to be a car freak; you don’t, but when buying a car I urge you to be smarter than I was. Get to know a thing or two about cars, take your time looking, ask questions, have a trusted, third-party mechanic inspect the car before purchase, etc. Don’t be me. Don’t spend your money on a car that will shrink your bank account and cause too many headaches to count. Don’t buy a “Monica.” And on that note, does anyone wanna buy my car?

The "Suck For Luck" Campaign

There is a current fan phenomenon for those out there supporting winless NFL teams and those close behind. It is called “Suck for Luck.” Andrew Luck is currently the starting quarterback at Stanford and is considered to be the closest thing to a sure draft pick. Barring injury, Luck will surely be the number one overall pick in next April’s NFL draft. Fans are rooting for their teams to “suck”, so they will lose enough games to garner that coveted pick. Many are against this idea, but I am all for it.
I, too root for my team to “suck.” I have placed my allegiance with the Chicago Bears (mostly because I am from the Chicago suburbs), but I want them to lose every game they play unless they are in the playoffs. Personally, I have felt for years that the current coaching and front office staff are incapable of winning a Superbowl. 
Just yesterday, I suffered a let down when Tampa Bay quarterback, Josh Freeman, threw another interception to the Bears defense late in the game. The Bears dominated Tampa for three quarters, but I was given a glimmer of hope when a potential fourth quarter comeback was launched. With less than two minutes left in the game, Freeman started slinging the ball around to receivers all over the field. Then, fear set in as I could see a pass miss the intended receiver and head towards a defenders hand. The pass was intercepted, the game was over, and the Bears won.
My thinking is that the more the Bears lose, the closer head coach, Lovie Smith, and general manager, Jerry Angelo, come to searching help wanted posts. NFL job security is directly related to victories (or lack of). For several years, the Bears have fluctuated from being bad to surprisingly good, but have remained dysfunctional throughout. They have won just enough for everyone to keep their jobs.

Hopefully, this ends after this season, so I can go back to cheering for Bear’s touchdowns instead of booing them. Until then, I will remain stagnant in the crazed state of disappointment and confusion I am guaranteed to be in on gamedays. 

I'm Excited, But Should I Be? Part 2

As I mentioned in a recent post, I am psyched for Battlefield 3. This epic shooter of colossal graphical proportions will be released tomorrow and many of the reviews came in today.

No one believes the game is perfect, but everyone says it provides a stellar online multiplayer experience both on consoles and PCs. Of course, I don’t love every game that gets rave reviews and I have spent countless, mindless hours enjoying games I was told to stay away from.

Originally, I had pre-ordered Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, but I allowed my enthusiasm for the planes, tanks, and destructible environments in Battlefield 3 to dictate where my money went. I cancelled that pre-order and immediately pre-ordered Battlefield 3 instead (the only other time I have done that is when I cancelled my pre-order for racing simulator, Forza 4, for Modern Warfare 3; ironic.). 

Sometime tomorrow between an early lunch and my afternoon classes, I’ll be heading over to Gamestop. Minutes later, I’ll be staring at my TV screen, watching the Battlefield logo appear. Soon I will find out whether my excitement will be dwindled or my expectations matched.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Look Into the Mirror and See Half a Face

Far too often, a story of significant tragedy is brought to my attention. In this case, the same women that has experienced far worse than anyone ever should, has displayed greater strength and courage than most people are capable of (link to article). Twenty-two-year-old, Evelyn Apoko, was abducted from her Ugandan home by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) before she was a teen.

During the three years she was held captive by the guerrilla group, Apoko witnessed terrible acts of violence and suffered tremendous physical, mental, and emotional pain. Apoko did what she had to to survive. She knew that if she didn’t listen to the LRA, she would be killed. 

Apoko was often caught in the midst of a firefight. One day, planes flew by, leaving bombs in their path. The child Apoko had been carrying was killed, Apoko suffered life-threatening injuries, and was left without a jaw. The LRA “spared” her because she could walk on her own. She couldn’t eat, so she drank. Eventually, she escaped when she said she was going to use the bathroom, then never returned. She made it back to Uganda and has had treatment there and major operations in the U.S.

The LRA abducts boys and girls between 9-12 years old to keep their organization alive. Girls become mules, wives, or sex slaves while boys are left to “choose” between fighting or being left in a mass grave. The LRA is always moving and floats between several nations. They have been in existence since the 1980’s and are led by Joseph Kony. 

The group had failed to be in the public eye until recently, President Obama decided to sent 100 military advisors to central Africa to hunt down the leaders of the LRA. What brought greater attention to the issue was conservative radio personality, Rush Limbaugh calling out Obama and coming to the defense of the “Christian” LRA. Apoko herself has responded to Limbaugh in a video, exposing the LRA for who they are and providing her side of the story. Limbaugh has left her waiting for a response.

Media attention is only the beginning. For Apoko and other survivors to heal and move on, much will have to be done. Child abductions must be stopped to spare the lives of many and to stop the growth of the LRA. This is not the only case of “humans” doing unspeakable acts to others that should be too sadistic to imagine, let alone carry out. Inhumane acts are a global issue. We have to do more than write or talk, myself included. We need to act. As Apoko says, "Every human being deserves peace in their life. We all deserve to live life without fear."

That's My Song, Don't Wear It Out

Its no secret that I Love music. Music is one of my greatest passions and I listen to it A LOT. I listen to music on my way to class, when I’m playing a game (that doesn’t require sound), when I do homework. I’m even listening to music as I’m typing this right now. However, there is one problem with listening to this much music; I wear it out.

I suffer a constant internal struggle between listening to a song too much and not listening to it enough to truly appreciate it. Every single time a new album comes out that I love, I listen to it over and over and over again. I tell myself, “live in moderation,” but I keep my ipod on “repeat.” I think to myself, “Hey, Linkin Park is awesome. I should listen to some Linkin Park . . . nah.” Then suddenly, I just stop. I don’t dare listen to a single track on that album for weeks, months, or in extreme cases, years. I move on to the latest album I added to my itunes library and allow myself to get lost in the guitar riffs and vocal melodies.

I’ve experienced this same cyclical problem since middle school and it has only worsened over time. Currently, my ears have been glued to my headphones, listening to Mastodon’s latest album, The Hunter. The album has been out for several weeks now and since then it has accounted for about 90% of all of the music I’ve listened to. I simply can’t stop listening to it. It is just a matter of time (no longer than a month from now) before I stop listening to the album and possibly, the band, for a stretch of time. I’m sure that by that point another album will be out to take its place (there are actually three albums coming out soon that I want to listen to [“I’m Excited, But Should I Be?]).

For years and years, this has been going on like clockwork. The only occasional hiccup is when multiple albums come out close together. Then, I can’t just listen to one album because others get ignored. At the same time, sometimes an album does get ignored only to be resurrected when I have grown bored with my current music and no new music has filled its shoes. 

I don’t know what it is about my personality that causes my brain to conform to these cycles, but to whatever you are, “well played sir.” 

I'm Excited, But Should I Be?

On seemingly a daily basis, I am excited about something. It may be an upcoming cd, movie, or video game, but whatever it is doesn’t matter. I will constantly over-hype things to myself, setting myself up for future disappointment. This is a constant, never-ending cycle that I tell myself I will break, but I only ever make it stronger.

As soon as I’ve traded in or returned that game that was supposed to be the game, I immediately look for the next great thing. Recently I have hyped up Battlefield 3 as being God’s gift to first-person shooters. I spent a few too many hours playing the open-beta (where the public gets to play-test a small snip-it of the game), I watched every trailer and interview I could find, I’ve read preview upon preview, and sadly, I have even wasted time watching in-game footage, with no commentary; just some lucky gamer running around shooting things.

Should this DICE developed game fail to meet my exceedingly high expectations, my attention will move onto Modern Warfare 3 or Mass Effect 3 or Pillow Pets (just kidding, but that’s actually a game). If the new KoRn album disappoints, my ears will be waiting for more music by Papa Roach or Atreyu. If The Avengers movie stinks, I will stalk movie theaters until the inevitable Avengers 2 premiers, hoping it will somehow be better. Eventually, I will be forced to ask myself the question, “when will this end?!”

Why I Fail at Zelda

I love Zelda, I really do. I follow news about the latest games,  look at screenshots, and watch trailers. I even show all of these things to my girlfriend, who first played Zelda back on her gameboy color while in elementary school. Despite all of this, I have only ever owned one zelda game before and I was bad at it, really bad.

Back in middle school, I got The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker for Gamecube. I liked the art style, the gameplay, and even managed to put up with having to sail around on a boat for long stretches of time with little to do. I loved the game, but I never got very far and I died ALL THE TIME. Eventually, frustration set in and I never played the game again.

Currently, my girlfriend has The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for her DS. I have only tried playing twice and failed each time. I got stumped in a stealth sequence where you have to sneak past some guards and escape a castle. Ten-year-old kids could handle this, but I couldn’t. Of course, occasionally my girlfriend gets stuck and feels lame when she has to refer to a game guide to get help, but she doesn’t know that really, I am the lame one. 

Despite my struggles, I recognize the series as being instrumental to Nintendo’s success over the years and I know it has brought joy (and frustration) to millions of people. I remain excited about everything Zelda, but I have accepted that it is not my cup of gaming tea. Perhaps one day, my future kids will experience the joy of winning a Zelda boss battle, something which I have never felt. Only time will tell. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stop Hatin' on Gamin'

For years the video game industry has been seen by politicians and other public figures as being a scapegoat for violent behavior and acts. I believe that games are not the problem and they are only an easy scapegoat because gamers are believed to be a minority.
Politicians that attack the video game industry often times do not understand the industry and place undeserved blame on those that are a part of it. CNN's William Bennett has blamed video games for men being unemployed and unmarried (link to article here). He urges men, in particular, to stop playing video games. Bennett, who was the U.S. Secretary of Education under Reagan, says that the increased percentage of women in the job market is a direct result of men “wasting” their time playing games. This is in complete disregard to that fact that gender inequality has come a long way. He uses statistics that date back to the early 1970’s, before the first game console was even invented. He also does not seem to be a credible and reliable source, as he has been outed for making racist remarks on his radio show (link to article here).

If you were to ask someone what social class they belong to, they will probably say that they are a member of the middle class. People making $30,000 and $300,000 a year often claim to be a part of the same class because the middle class is also a state of mind; gamers are the same way. 
Most people that play games do not consider themselves to be “gamers” because society places a negative connotation with the word “gamer.” To me, if you consistently play a video game of any kind, then you are a gamer. You don’t have to own a game console or even a computer to be a gamer. Everyday, 30 million people play Angry Birds, but many would probably deny being a gamer (link to article here). If all of these people admitted to being a gamer, then we would no longer be considered a minority. If we were no longer a minority, then we would no longer be a scapegoat.
Gamers aren’t going to go away, in fact, we are growing. 91 percent of kids in the US game, which is a nine percent increase over last year (link to article here). This brings to mind the phrase, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” 
Video games inspire and motivate people, allowing them to do great things. Planet Hunters, an online collection of public-release NASA Kepler data, used gamers to discover two new planet candidates (link to article here). 
Similarly, players of the online protein folding simulator, Foldit, found the structure of a specific enzyme believed to have an important role in the spread of the AIDS virus, bringing scientists closer to curing the disease (link to article here).

Next, Patrick Campbell suffered a stroke when he was 14 that stole his two biggest passions from him: video games and drawing. He is now 21 and over the years he has gained back some of his strengths and abilities. Before his stroke, he had naturally been right-handed, but he has never regained the use of his right hand. This has pushed him to write and draw with his left hand. Traditionally, gaming has required two hands, but Campbell didn’t let that stop him. He has perfected ways to play video games using his left hand, as well as other body parts, and he plays well enough to beat many of his friends (link to article here). There are many more examples of gamers that accomplish great things.
It is true that people are influenced by games, sometimes in a negative way. Some people do allow themselves to get lost in a virtual world that they believe to be better than the real one. In 2000, China banned video game consoles, hoping its citizens would spend less time gaming (link to article here). While preventing people from playing console games, the Chinese have turned to PC games. Further, this December, China’s first gaming console is going on sale (link to article here). 
Also, although games could push people to do bad things, games aren’t necessarily the reason why people do bad things. It's been rumored that if you have naturally violent tendencies, then violent video games may magnify your existing behaviors. I have played video games since I was 2-years-old and played my first shooter when I was in elementary school and it hasn’t negatively affected my behavior in anyway. If you are naturally a creative person, video games can help push your creativity. It all depends on the individual playing the game.
Games are not the only medium that can influence people’s behaviors; movies, television shows, music, and books all play a role as well. It has been highly publicized that Mark David Chapman, the killer of John Lennon, said that the book The Catcher in the Rye pushed him to murder (link to article). The media isn’t an innocent bystander either. Everyday, the news relies on violent acts (riots, wars, homicides) to make headline news. So when it comes to scapegoats, society should stop pointing fingers at gamers.