Thursday, January 31, 2008

Video Game Censorship

So, I was cruising online today and came across a youtube video from Fox News. It is about the horrible sex scenes in Mass Effect, a roleplaying game for the Xbox360 that I happened to have greatly enjoyed. The people at Fox News claim that this game allows for fully interactive sex scenes along with full-frontal nudity. Anyone who has played this game all the way through knows that it does no such thing. In fact, the announcer in the video as well as one of their "experts" admits that they have never even played the game. I am sick and tired of people making complaints about things when they have never even experienced what they are fighting about.

This hoopla about Mass Effect is really only the latest in a long line of controversies that the video game industry has had to endure. Ironically, it almost seems that people are complaining about games more now than they did in the past. I suppose this has alot to do with the overall prominence of video games in this culture: far more than in the past. This is ridiculous because the video game industry is far more regulated now than ever in the past, with the regulation enforced by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board). Prior to that, there was no watchdog in the industry and many blatantly sexual or violent games were released to the general public. Custer's Revenge is a famous example of a blatantly pornographic video game, where the soul point was to have sex with the squaws.

Nowadays, every game is rated from E for everyone to AO (Adults Only) along with between 3 and 6 descriptors of what is to be found in the video game. For instance, it might say something like 'partial nudity' or 'simulated violence' or 'suggestive dialogue'. These may seem kinda vague, but in video games that may occupy dozens of hours of a gamer's life it is very difficult to portray everything a game has, without publishing a small volume. It would seem that it would be much easier to rate movies, yet many movies get released at the PG-13 rating that I would not want my children to see.

It seems that in many ways our society as a whole is getting desensitized and callous about sex and violence. Regardless of your own individual viewpoint on what should or should not be allowed, it seems blatantly obvious that more of it is being allowed on TV and in the movies than ever before. This has never really bothered me because from the time most of it had been allowed on tv I've been old enough to view it. Video games, however, seem to provide a unique controversy with many conservative individuals.

Traditionally, video games seem to have always been child's play. Many of us in our twenties have grown up with video games and they have consequently grown up with us. As such, they have increased in complexity over the years even as they have become more and more adult-oriented. While there may have been some games, like the aforementioned Custer's revenge, that could never have been considered to be a kid's game the amount of adult-oriented subject matter in today's games has increased exponentially as the same kids who used to thrive off Super Mario Bros. now find more pleasure in killing aliens (Halo 3) or in killing prostitutes (Grand Theft Auto). Since this is what the general populace seems to want, can you really blame the companies making the games for making what their audiences want?

I guess my point is this: with so much crap going on in the world why are people so worried about this entertainment industry that has done more than any other entertainment industry to try and regulate what is being produced. With the ratings boards, and the family-settings on many of the xbox games presently available, they are making a valid attempt to keep games that have to much violence or sexuality from out of the hands of those who are not mature enough to handle the subject material. How can it possibly be their fault when there are parents out there who would readily hand over any games their children want regardless of the rating simply to placate them or get them out of their hair. The problem is with the individuals and should not be laid at the feet of the companies' making all the games and the video game systems.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The First Week of School

I have done a pretty good job so far, after 3 days (I know, its such a long time period), of keeping with my schedule and working on my thesis every day. For anyone interested in my daily progress, come on over to my Thesis Blog and see what I am doing. Because of the unpublished nature of much of the material, I have mad it closed to the public. Anyone who reads this blog and is also interested in my thesis needs just contact me and ask me to invite them. You are all welcome.

Looking forward to my posting on this blog, it might be somewhat sparse until I finish my thesis. Though if I can keep with my schedule, I should still have my evenings largely free so it is possible that I might even post more than last semester. I am currently working on a story, but it seems to be spiralling out of control and is already over 12 pages long and I have no idea on its eventual length. I would like to post some more short stories, however and I will try to keep that foremost in addition to my personal logs. As usual, if anything should catch my eye in the news or elsewhere and I have a personal opinion on it, I might just blog about it. Until then, have a great new years.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Back to School

Today was the true beginning of my last semester. I spent the majority of the day working on my thesis, and pursuing teaching assistant related projects. This includes a whole lot of scanning that I still need to do. It really feels good to know that this is my last semester, and I feel much more motivated for it. The proverbial light is at the end of the tunnel, I can see it and I am sprinting towards it. In order to keep all of this going, I am instituting a rather strict schedule that sees me in my office from 9-5 on Monday through Thursday. I think this will really work well since I only have one class on Saturdays. If I can keep this up, I have no doubt that I will finish in good time and be able to use the extra time to make my thesis that much better.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

2007 in Review, Part 3

With this past summer behind me, I went back down to Las Cruces for my 3rd semester. I had reached the turning point in this whole venture, and I began to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. To be perfectly honest, I seem to remember little from this semester. This is owing to the fact that it went by so damned fast that I can hardly believe that as I sit here now I am only days away from returning for my 4th and final semester. The latter part of the year was characterized by the continuing revisions of my proposal, which always managed to hover around 50 pages no matter how often I cut, added, or transposed. It's a good thing though, because for the most part I will be able to copy and paste almost verbatim into my finished thesis.

During the rest of the previous semester, I spent a good deal of it hanging out with friends of mine in New Mexico. It really is going to be quite hard for me to leave them and come back to Ohio when I graduate, because I have made some really great friendships that will most likely last the rest of my life. It will certainly be bittersweet when I leave Las Cruces, it has been my home for almost two years now and it will be hard to forget.

Well, that pretty much does it for the year. I left out much, but feel I have done a serviceable job in recounting the most important aspects. Looking towards 2008, I will be setting up a thesis specific blog at where I will be keeping as daily a log as I can about what I am doing with my thesis. I am keeping it private, because I haven't published anything yet. If you are interested in keeping tabs on it, let me know and give me your email address so I can invite you to view it. Wish me luck during this final semester and have a happy 2008.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

2007 in Review, Part 2

The last we heard from our intrepid archaeologist, Sean Arata (again cue Indiana Jones music), he was suffering through a field season full of gale force winds and other such indignations. Needless to say, he (I) was ready and willing to take my A in the field school and spend the rest of the summer in Columbus with Jess. The summer was a great time, as it marked the halfway point of graduate school. It really began to sink in that I only had a year left before finding a job and being able to start wedding plans in earnest. This turned out to be a very pivotal time period, as this coincided perfectly with the genesis of this here blog!! (You can probably turn off the Indiana Jones music now, gets kind of tinny after awhile)

I have really found a new/old passion in my life, and have tried my hardest to keep it going. It is new because I finally feel much more capable of putting my life down in words, not to mention other/ fictional lives. Though I have been writing stories since I was much younger than I am now, I have never embraced the very real possibility that with enough sweat and tears (and don't forget practice) I could actually in my lifetime pursue a career as an author above and beyond what other job I may have. Though of course I would never completely forsake the time and energy that went into getting my Master's degree. I had a type of defining moment recently, during my current spate of attempting to write fiction.

It happened as I was taking out garbage the other night. I looked up into the stars. Even with all the light pollution plus clouds that were in the sky at that time, my mind's eye was able to pierce that dark veil and imagine myself what was up there. This initial imagination didn't take much. After all, I've seen stars all my life. For the first time in my life, however, I could really imagine what might be up there. I've always wondered what strange and quixotic things are evident not just in our own milky way galaxy, but in the millions of other galaxies out there. Then came the stunner: "Why, I could create what might be up there". This seemingly innocuous statement hit me like a thunderbolt. Is it really that easy, I thought. The back of my mind said, "Sure, why not. You can string words together. If monkey's can create Shakespeare, certainly you can create some new kind of intellectual property!"

In the end, I really have Jess to thank for this. If she hadn't told me during the summer that I should start this blog and start writing again (of course, she mostly did this because she was tired of me whining), then I don't think I would have started it up again. Without her positive backing and constant shoves in the back I would still be a forward-thinking man walking backwards in this escalator ride called Life. Thank you, babe.

I felt the need to expound so thoroughly upon this past summer and what it started, that I think I will have to finish up this 2007 retrospect in my next posting. Happy new years to all, and to all a solid paycheck.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2007 in Review, Part 1

Well guys, my blog has survived through the holiday season!! Though it has seen its highs and lows (read, long time without posts), I am refusing to let it die. It is very important to me that I continue writing and getting my feelings out for the world to see. Every person out there who reads this, you know who you are, gives me the impetus to keep putting the figurative pen to the figurative paper. I believe that since this blog has begun I have become much better at translating my rather confusing thoughts into coherent and cogent sentences and paragraphs. I daresay that it is also helping me out with my thesis and other school-related writing.

2007 was a very big year for me in many disparate ways. It was the first, and last, full year of graduate school combining the fears and doubts of the beginning of graduate school with the resolution and the forward thinking of the end of graduate school. It began with tragic heartache with the death of my grandfather Louis, a man beloved and honored by multitudes of people in and around the Cincinnati area. His funeral was difficult, especially since it combined with a different type of heartache associated with the necessity to leave all my family here in Ohio (especially my wonderful Jess) and relocate for yet another semester of graduate school down in Las Cruces.

Perhaps as a way to cover this inauspicious start to the year, I tried to delve deeper into my school and work my way through the semester with the endgame in mind. This was the quarter where I really solidified my thesis topic and my schedule aimed at getting me out of there by Spring '08. As far as my grades were concerned it worked and I earned straight A's that semester: a feat that I have rarely accomplished over my academic career. Though I would have loved to have been able to come home and spend the entire summer at Jess's side and visiting friends and family, I saw an opportunity to ensure that I would be able to graduate on time. The difficulty arose when I realized that my Geography minor added an extra six credits onto my schedule, which would have kept me in school until the very end of 2008. In order to alleviate this, I signed up for a six-week field school that was set to take place in Deming, NM an exceedingly tiny town rife with prehistoric Native American artifacts.

This field school was an important step in my education as it made me realize how little love I had for field archaeology. While I may have had moderate success with the theoretical aspects of Archaeology and Anthropology, such as the nature of culture and unilinear evolution, I realized real quickly that I did not enjoy working in the dirt with toothbrushes. Ironically, I seemed to enjoy the paperwork more than the actual fieldwork. I have reached halfway through the year of 2007, and this is looking like a fairly long post already, so I'll end it here and just ask you to wait with what I am sure is baited breath for my next posting where I chronicle the continuing adventures of Sean Arata, Archaeologist!!! (cue Indiana Jones music).

Before I go, I would like to send my regrets to a dear friend of mine who's grandmother passed away over the Holidays. I'm sure that her and her family are still reeling from this great loss at such a joyous time. My thoughts are with them in this time of need.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Futurama Returns!!!!!!!!!!

I found this little gadget on which is a site set up by the creator's of Futurama. If anyone who loves this show as much as I do is interested in any information about its continuation, this is the site to visit.