Fear Factor

I think I have a pretty good tolerance as far as fear is concerned. I've never lost sleep over a book or a movie, no, not even Bhoot. I've never scared myself shitless after watching a horror movie alone at night. Nope, all the usual, normal scary stories that happen to every usual, normal kid never happened to me.

But, if done right, video games really hit me where it counts. I feel for my character in Morrowind, I was scared of playing Undying with my headphones in the dark, and Silent Hill 2 does invoke a feeling of urgency, if not fear. Why is that? It could be the interactivity, the identification with the character at a very primal level. This could be the reason for most, but for me that's just part of the reason why I react strongly to electronic stimuli. There is something else that leads a twenty something man to take his headphones off, turn on the lights, and then continue his gaming.

After playing games for most of my conscious life, I think I've gotten to the point where I can ignore the motor control aspect of most games, and shift my attention to the gameplay. Basically, I'm receiving all the benefits of interactivity without being distracted by many of the trappings it necessitates. I don't have to think about pressing the E key to open a door, I just open it. The state of consciousness while playing the game when you are in the game, when suspension of disbelief sets in and you don't care if the monitor is a 14 inch midget or if the bathroom tap is overflowing...

This could explain a lot about the vastly different experiences that casual and hardcore gamers have from games. If you're concentrating on controls, maybe you aren't concentrating on other things. Instead of trying to figure out the alternate fire key, I throw grenades at aliens trying to make a tasty morsel out of me. Me, not the pixelated, polygonal 3d model on a monitor in front of me.

However, I'm at least not as bad off as my friend Amit, who screamed when he played Half Life. He got so scared he never played Opposing Force or Blue Shift.

Although reading this would give the impression that I have the godlike game control skillz, it's really more that I don't pay attention to them as much. I'm actually pretty sloppy, and games like Spider-Man the movie (for the PC) really seem like lot of work for me. I am at home with the keyboard and mouse, but positively suck at gamepads, and their analogous mappings on the keyboard.

On another tangent, Scottish Television has made a 22-minute documentary about machinima, the art form that uses videogame technology to make animated films. The documentary is called Artery: Machinima.

posted by sam | 8/26/2003 02:33:00 AM


Monday Bloody Monday

That the blasts occurred the same day as the ASI findings were revealed admist a lot of skepticism and the UP allies split with threats of dissolution of the assembly raises a lot of questions in my head. Add to it the fact that no group has yet accepted responsibility for the heinous crimes. Forgive me for being doubtful, the death of innocents is of course excoriatable, but the motives behind them seem strange to me.

I hope my friends in Mumbai are alright.

posted by sam | 8/25/2003 09:39:00 PM


UPN is going to start a CGI family comedy based on Video games on prime time. The comedy GAME OVER from Carsey-Werner-Mandabach will be the first series based on Games, and the first CGI series on prime time. It follows the exploits of a family, the Smashenburns, that lives in an alternate videogame universe. Marisa Tomei (hot meter turning on) will voice the mom.

Thought the series sounds promising, and includes a lot of cool things including kung fu-fighting Shaolin monk neighbors, I have to say I'm a little cynical about the qualtiy of the show. I mean, its being done by Carsey-Werner. The people who did That 70s show, and Grounded for Life. I'm not saying they were bad comedies, though I did get tired of them a few seasons later, but the common thread of non adaptive families in forced situations runs deep here.

I am interested in this because it concerns Games. Though I denounce television vocally, I would like to see how this turns out.

posted by sam | 8/24/2003 10:36:00 PM


A Revolution Behind

image courtesy: DCcomics
15th August was my country's Independence Day. Independence, as everyone apperceives it to be, is Freedom from control or influence of another or others. I am not going to go on a fulmination about how we abuse our freedom, and how many people fought for what we take for granted. Its true, but thats not my point.

I am an inquisitive man. And the wondrous trappings of the world wide web exist, it appears, to satiate my curiousity. Being an Indian, I have not really understood what the Ku Klux Klan was all about. That a country marred with strife and spiritually exhausted after a long drawn civil war still found in itself to stunt itself with racism of the extremum level, does elicit some amount of speculation. I read a lot about the hatred that ran root deep amongst some white supremacists, and the retaliatory emotions that the black community harbored. I also read about Dr. King and Stetson Kennedy and the sanity they sought to bring to their country.

In a land that has long been glorified in the supremacy of the white race, he (the white man) directed his resentment against the black man. His normal instincts became perverted. He became wasteful and careless. He became bestial. He released his pent-up emotions by lynching the black man in order to witness the mental and physical suffering of another human being. He became cruel and inhuman in everyday life as his resentment and bitterness increased. When his own suffering was more than he could stand, he could live only by witnessing the suffering of others.
--  Erskine Caldwell, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937)

And then it dawned upon me. The odium that existed in the United States during 1915-1970, is the similar to what I see in my country today. My fascination with the times in which existed the Klan, seemed almost hypocritical. We are a country defaced with baleful acts of terrorism and struggling to overcome the stultifying outcomes of poverty and illiteracy. And we still find in ourselves to twinge our existentialism with communal strife. I started seeing a pattern that defined the white supremacists and the hindu supremacists.

All hyphenated groups - whether they be Negro-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Catholic-Americans, Italian-Americans or whatever must become American-Americans, or leave the country! The Ku Klux Klan is an American-American organization. As the Army of the Klan we Klavaliers are dedicated to saving America for Americans!
--Cliff Carter, the Night Hawk of the Klan.

image courtesy:spartacus.schoolnet

Suddenly all the Togadias and the Daras had a precedence that I could not ignore. This scares me. Out of the strife and the racism at the times, there emerged many leaders of the black revolution, demanding equality, and expecting no free change. But they were not all right.

Every month, I went to Chicago, I would find that some sister had written complaining to Mr. Muhammad that I talked so hard against women when I taught our special classes about the different natures of the two sexes. Now, Islam has very strict laws and teachings about women, the core of them being that the true nature of a man is to be strong, and a woman's true nature is to be weak, and while a man must at all times respect his woman, at the same time he needs to understand that he must control her if he expects to get her respect.
-- Malcolm X, Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)

At least we are not that Talibanized. But as Gujarat exemplified, there is a distinct problem at hand, the people responsible will not stop until they have destroyed the very fabric that covers their naked, bloody bodies. When I had established my similarities with that dystopia that history forgot and the one we are being reluctantly thrust against, I was scared. It took a civil war, and more than 40 years of strife to bring that society closer to harmony. I wonder what it would take to bring peace in my country. And I disagree with every quasi-perspicacious person who disowns the ugly head of communalism as something they didn't create, and are not a part of. Of course you are not. But everything is happening in your country, your state, your city. You may play pretend harmony with your friends but the country burns. If you say you can't do anything to stop it, and that you are disgusted enough not to vote, you are wrong.

That you don't vote, or choose to ignore what happens around you, just because you are ok, is where the world's largest democracy fails. I am going to do something about it, in my own small way, maybe you should too. Remember, you celebrated 56 years of your independence a few days ago. Merry Independence day.

posted by sam | 8/19/2003 03:54:00 AM


Crash 'n' Burn

Here's an odd game that comes recommended for people who'll go to any ends to uncover all the bad taste entertainment that sick minds will conjure. Frontal Assault is a sort of action/puzzle game in which you must...slap these breasts in certain patterns before move icons fall past the screen. Disturbing, and a serious food for thought for people concerned with women's place in gamedom. More on that soon.

posted by sam | 8/14/2003 05:39:00 AM


Mizutamari ni utsuru sekai
(The World's Reflection in a Puddle)

So last night me and some friends got together, and decided to catch up over a beer or ten. As is by now commonplace, conversation veered towards the fairer sex and our trysts with the likes of them. Fool that I am, I had mentioned to this raucous flock, passingly at that, that I happen to find a girl that i met 'cute'. This of course, under the unctuous and unholy influence of alcohol led them to the conclusion that I must espouse her and thusly produce healthy offspring. Failure to comply would no doubt have an adverse effect on my physical well being. This of course, was last night. This is the next morning. All of us nice kids are sober, solemnly at work, with no recollection of indiscretions of the night past. And I am back to being what can be termed the silly point in the cricket match that is the dating process. I always have to be on my guard, I might get my genitalia hurt in the process, and there is a lot of general appealing and screaming after every ball.

I am not what you might call a dating wizard. In fact, I am hardly an apprentice. Around last year I had finally deciphered, after a long string of meretricious debacles, that I am not what you would call relationship compliant. All my attempts at being a good date have been fruitful until about five months in a relationship, after which the other partner in said endeavor starts realizing that she needs 'more' than just movies, lunch, parties and fun. Then starts a downward spiral wherein said partner (hereafter referred to as evil she dam from hell) initiates a procedure, which only ends in the termination of the partnership. With that in mind, I decide to go ahead with my latest adventure with succinctness and sententious precision and ingenuity. I approached the aforementioned damsel, and initiated transaction.

[Me]: I am here to negotiate a date.
What the fuck did I just say? Man! I shouldn't let my brain do my thinking.
[Girl]: Wha..?
Ah! The traditional innocent approach. She knows not that I am a master at deciphering female conversational idiosyncrasies.
[Me]: (firmly this time) I am here to initiate a dating process that would entail mild entertainment in the form of some cinema, food, and the consumption of the same with gusto.
[Girl]: Who's Gusto?
[Me]: Woman! Play not with the all-knowing master! Let us settle down on the number of such excursions over the course of the next five months.
Ok this is just plain crazy. Lets just take the slap and the meeting of female knee with male gonads sportingly, and get it over with.
[Girl]: (sighs) Alright, whatever.
Heh. Told you I am a natural at this.
[Me]: Ten.
[Girl]: Zero.
Ok, this might throw some people off guard, but I am good at bargaining. This was expected.
[Me]: (coolly) Nine.
[Girl]: Zero.
[Me]: Eight
[Girl]: Zero.
[Me]: (slightly desperate now) Four
Yes I know I skipped a few numbers. This was to throw her off guard.
[Girl]: Zero
Ok this calls for a change in tactic
[Me]: One?
Note to self: stab brain first chance you get. This is NOT a tactic.
[Girl]: (amused) Zero
[Me]: nine twelfths!
Hah! Now she's cornered. She knows this can go on for hours, maybe even days!
[Girl]: (smiling) Alright, I'll go out with you. I was just kidding anyways. So what day?

This was an unexpected turn of events. I didn't realize I would have to actually go out with her. I was just enjoying myself, negotiating and everything. This was when panic set in. I realized I had to say something fast.

[Me]: You need to build more Overlords!

And then I ran from there. As I always say, with us thin people, the panic button is closer to the surface.

posted by sam | 8/11/2003 12:56:00 AM


Electronic Entertainment Hegemony

So these people think that Half-Life 2 will be delayed. Although Valve hasn't gone ahead and screamed 'bullshit!', they haven't ruled out the possibility either. Maybe it will be a little late. I say, if you can wait 5 excruciating years, you can wait 15 more fuckin days. Speaking of Valve, you really should download Steam. You're missing out on a lot of cool things, being miserly over some 550 k. Other things Half-Life related that deserve your fickle, channel flipping attention, in a humongous-wooly-mammoth-is-goading-you-in-the-'nads way are Day of Defeat and Natural Selection. Both are excellent mods, and DoD, buoyed by the success of BF1942 is even available as a standalone retail pack. NS, on the other hand has just turned two. Actually 2.0. It is so fucking awesome your puny Counter Strike filled mind cannot begin to comprehend. And don't think I am berating CS here. As always, it remains a darling. There's even this movie I am excited about. In short, its a feature-length film about Counter-Strike and the people who play it seriously. It even features a clan playing in the final of the CPL and how they win it. What's good about this thing is that, it actually exposes gamers to common mass media, and a good amount of the movie actually shows a lot of co-operative, strategic play by these people, immediately serving as a vindication for kids whose parents don't like the idea of them playing games. It's heartening to see this thing. I hope it catches on.

So long as you're well utilizing your phat pipe, do try out the new TRON 2.0 demo, and the demo for Empire Interactive's upcoming "Fright Sim" Ghost Master I have heard good things. As for me, as long as there exists Morrowind, my mind shall not wander for lack of stimuli of the role playing variety, but it's been too bloody long, and I am thirsting for a cool new computer RPG. KOTOR of course, is out, but not yet for my platform of choice. The big green box seems to have had precedence in release dates over my ivory PC box. Now I know how Mac owners felt like, waiting for NwN. Other digital recreations I am waiting for to bring emotional and mental arousal are The Temple of Elemental Evil, Lionheart, and Riftrunner. The aforementioned temple is the AD&D by Troika, the people who made the excellent, but short-lived Arcanum. Black Isle is back with Lionheart, and I am most curious to see how they implement the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system used in Fallout. Riftrunner is the most low-key of this lot, and I am a sucker for the underdog. It has an interesting story, and a much enjoyed predecessor. The wait of course seems to be long, and given the fact that I have nary an expansion pack for Morrowind, I have but no choice. Maybe I should buy that Z box...

posted by sam | 8/05/2003 09:42:00 PM


Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

As a kid, I was addicted. My dealer knew me by name. I used to get my fix weekly, twice a week, sometimes even daily. And not just low-brow offerings that catered to the most animalistic of my instincts. When in money, I also used to get some deep stuff. The mind trip ones. The habit consumed all my free cash. It got so bad, I did things-- terrible, heinous things, like coming first in class and cleaning my room everyday-- to finance my addiction. I have never recovered fully, and I still go and get my fix, wherever I can. Admittedly, as a poor college student, I finally knocked the habit back to some extent. But only just.

I was a comics junkie. Yes, I am 24 years old, I work in a tech company, I have seemingly important views to share on anything and everything, and I still am a comics freak. A super freak, if you will. And if you know people around me, this is not a non-sequitur. With my daily-to-visit web comic list growing exponentially, I had become increasingly lackadaisical about my hobby of late. And then I remembered the good times.

I was just like any kid, feeding his fantasies with any and every comic that the local bookshop, or firang land relatives deemed fit to keep for my consumption. DC comics were decidedly cool for a while, but soon got to my nerves with its goody two shoes renditions, and the burgeoningly geriatric lineup of heroes. Only Batman was something I invested in for a while. And that too, because the art was to kill for. I was a steadfast Marvel fan. X-Men, Wolverine, Spider-man, The Hulk, Avengers and too many more to count. They were cool, were better drawn(except when Alex Ross decided to pen DC heroes), and somehow I veered towards this literary endeavor more.

I read a lot of annoying Archie too. Indulging in a pubescent fantasy was apparently a norm, as me and many of my friends found out. But they lacked punch. They were funny at times, but were too saccharine laden to hold my interest for as long as the wry, witty and excellently drawn Asterix. I didn't dislike Archie and his merry gang, infact I liked them a lot. I just grew out of them faster than most fantasies that other comics offered. Asterix, on the other hand, was my guilty pleasure. I liked it so much, and they were so bloody expensive, I spent money meant for clothes and fast food on them.

In the Indian scene, I was a huge fan of Indrajal, with their lineup of Mandrake, Phantom, Flash Gordon, and a very adult themed Garth. Never a fan, or even an acquaintance of the vulgar and violent Raj comic heroes, I read a lot of Diamond comics. In fact, I was a fan of an old farmer dude, whose only super power was that he was smart. Smarter than a computer, if you believe the creator.

Sadly, due to lack of funds, and the fact that I never could get my hands on most, I stayed away from the independent comic scene. Elfquest, Nexus, Mage, and others were beyond my reach and my pocket. With one exception.

Cerebus was an odd comic. Black and white art as opposed to full color extravaganzas. A talking sword-weilding aardvark as opposed to men wearing their undies on the outside. A Canadian comic in a market deluged with American heroes. Book form as opposed to thin longish comics. Self written and published as opposed to editor driven syndication. Cerebus came as a benevolent gift from some unknown benefactor to my school library. And I'm pretty sure no one ever read it, as it was fairly violent, anti establishment, and very very funny. My schoolmates will vouch for the fact that my school was hardly an establishment that tolerated, much less understood humor. But that is beside the point. The few that were there were in mint condition, and I was the only one who checked them out. You see, one of my favorite comic books was not only an obscure, less read comic, it didn't cost me any money.

By an artist called Dave Sim, Cerebus is about a barbarian aardvark who talks of himself in the third person. He likes ale and gold. A lot. In the course of his story he's been both Prime Minister of Canada and Pope. If you ever see one, just grab it with both hands, and yell for me, ok?

And I am out of comics to talk about. I could talk about how much I loved Asterix, but that would be repetition. So I'll talk about games (duh!) next. Seeya then.

posted by sam | 8/04/2003 02:42:00 AM


I have a dream...(The Tao of Foo - II)

Remember the IE vs. alt browsers thingy? Here are a few more linkies that might interest you:

A whole lotta nothing reviews Firebird. Its the ultimate weblogging tool too, she says.

So apparently, is too good for Mozilla and other alt browsers. And heres a guy's answer.

This is a small comparision between Mozilla and IE. And this guy is fair.

And a solution to the HR problem in Mozilla.

And since I've got nothing witty to post, this takes care of today. Hee hee. Am I evil or wot?

posted by sam | 8/03/2003 11:16:00 PM

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