Issue #40
November 17, 2006
Front Page

When it rains, it pours.
Or so the saying goes.

On this, the launch weekend for the remaining next-generation consoles, RPGamer is proud to relaunch something of our own. Currents has returned. Frankly, there couldn't have been a better time; at the precipice of a new era, RPGamer is with you all the way. That's right. We feel your pain. We'll get through this together.

The first step to recovery is admission. I'm Theo Litowski, and I'm a gamer. I'm a gamer in business college with a head for legal issues, and I want to help you.

I'm certainly glad you made the effort to click through and see where Currents is headed. As for content, Currents will stay very much the same: industry, hardware, and legal issues facing games and gamers worldwide. There's bound to be changes, but always for the better. For example, you won't find the stock ticker today; it's been replaced with NUMB3R CRUNCH1NG, an in-depth look at comparable figures from different players in the industry.

Today's NUMB3R CRUNCH1NG features an in-depth look at PlayStation 3 and Wii sales figures and projections. Take a look, and drop a comment on the message boards if you think you'd like to see more NUMB3R CRUNCH1NG. Alternately, give it to me straight if you desperately want the Stock Ticker back. Or, if you're completely indifferent, say so. Remember, loose lips make columns awesome.

In today's selections, you're bound to see plenty of PS3 shenanigans and your weekly dose of censorship controversy. Also, see why I like being a gamer in Canada. I've buried two stories about sex in video games somewhere in the middle, there, so you might want to keep this one away from the kids.

Telefilm, a long-time initiative of the Canadian government to encourage development in the film, television, music, and other electronic entertainment industries in Canada, announced a new initiative earlier this month, Reuters reports.

According to a press release from Telefilm Canada, the project is designed to lubricate the process for new, independent game developers to market their creations. The Great Canadian Video Game Competition will put $2 million CDN worth of funding and mentorship opportunities in the hands of emerging game makers.

The competition will take place in three stages. The first stage, Innovation (January 2007), will see 10 applicants nationwide appear before a jury of Canadian industry leaders. Each applicant all be granted $50,000 to further their projects, and recieve valuable mentorship from industry veterans. During the second stage, Project Development (March 2007), the jury will choose four projects to recieve $250,000 each to put towards the creation of a playable demo. Finally, at the Vidfest in Vancouver, British Columbia, one company will recieve $500,000 in the third stage, Commercialization.

The project is supported by Electronic Arts, Radical Entertainment, and Ubisoft, who are represented on the project selection jury, and are joined in the mentorship group by representatives from Sherpa Games and Union Entertainment.

Will any rocking RPGs rise out of this little experiment? Currents will keep a close eye on the Great Canadian Video Game Competition as it progresses.

With the input and support of industry, this competition will give independent firms the leverage to attract required financing and distribution opportunities for its intellectual property.
Wayne Clarkson, Executive Director, Telefilm Canada
Source: Reuters

Blame the American Right for negative attitudes towards video games all you like, but the European Left is taking a swing at Rule of Rose, much like one would swing at a dog in a sack. Rule of Rose is a survival-horror game for the PS2, which details the life of a young girl in a psychotic orphanage. The decidedly macabre title is set in 1930's England, and carries a "M" rating in North America (according to IGN). Rule of Rose has decidedly sadistic undertones, with more than a hint of lesbian subtexts, but is relatively easy on gore, Life in Italy suggests.

The talking head on this issue is Franco Frattini, Mayor of Rome and EU Justice and Security Commissioner, who, in a letter from the European Commission to interior ministers, suggested that government and industry discuss a "voluntary" code of conduct for content in games. Friso Roscam Abbing, a spokesman for Frattini, opined that the video game industry should show self-censorship self-restraint when publishing material in Europe.

Frattini earns himself a Currents Quote of the Week award with this gem, spoken to Italian media:

There is no way that a violent video game should be sold and distributed in our country... this game must not enter Italian homes

And here are some excerpts from his letter, for your enjoyment.

One of the latest games recently available on the European market relates to a young girl who becomes submitted to psychological and physical violence. This has shocked me profoundly for its obscene cruelty and brutality.
These types of "recreational games" are dreadful examples for our children and may provoke or encourage violence or bully(ing) behaviour ... or suggest this is a normal behaviour.
Franco Frattini, Mayor of Rome and EU Justice and Security Commissioner

The November issue of Playboy featured a little more than airbrushing; some of the models were full CGI. It featured a couple video game characters dressed (or undressed) little more suggestive than originally featured in their respective games. Dean Takahashi spoke to Scott Alexander, a Playboy senior editor, about the video game spread.

Alexander rightly notes that the demographics for video games and Playboy magazine are very complimentary. With so many games marketed to adults, he notes, "the issue is that games are seen as for kids. But they’re so not. The level and intensity of games is clearly not for kids...The politicians are scoring points by exploiting this. They want to point to easy targets."

Takahashi's remarks at the end of his article are of special note. He ponders if spreads like the Playboy one are moving the industry forward, or if they are furthering the implied (or explicit) sexism that games are characterized by. Is a game with a sexed-up heroine more succesfull than one without? And are bouncing boobies hurting the industry in the long run?

That's what the message board is for, readers.

Here's an excerpt from the Playboy spread for discussion purposes. I edited out the naughty bits. The sacrifices I make for you...

Playboy Nov. 16 Video Game Spread
Sarah Morrison (Tabula Rasa), Jessica McRae (Scarface: The World Is Yours), Lida (God of War II) Persphone (God of War II), Alica Claus (BulletWitch), Dr. Jasmine Lin (TimeShift), and Enrica Villablanca (Splinter Cell: Double Agent)

Source: GamePolitics

At the Montreal Games Summit last week, a game designer and professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Brenda Braithwait, gave her analysis of a specific video game trend: sex. According to her, Canada is leading the way on hard-core sex gaming with titles like Virtually Jenna, a virtual foray in the pornographic carreer of Jenna Jameson. Obviously, this isn't the sort of game the ESRB would touch with a ten-foot pole, to use a poorly chosen metaphor.

Braithwait made special mention of MMOs as the next big thing in electric erotica, and cited the popular Second Life as "the absolute granddaddy of emergent sex."

But here's her important point: video games ratings are inordinately agressive. An "M" game, as a movie or a TV-show, would be hard-pressed to recieve an "R" or "18+" rating. Conversely, the sort of material you see on prime time television will cause weeks of controversy if displayed in a video game.

The stuff that you see in GTA 3 as far as sex goes, you see in Happy Days. Truly. There have been Happy Days episodes when somebody's in a car and the car moves a little. That's what people see in GTA 3 when you get into a car with a woman.
In any other medium, if they said 'you can't have sex,' artists would be outraged. They would stand up and say 'To hell with you ... don't tell me what I can do. This is my creative freedom.'
Brenda Braithwait
Source: CTV
PlayStation 3

The reactions to the PS3 release are mind-boggling. The stories spinning off of the incredible lineups are quirky at times, scary at others, and downright embarrassing across the board. Were you in line for two days, trying to get your hands on one of those ticket stubs? If so, come inside right now before you catch cold. Sit down with a hot bowl of Currents, and see what other poor souls had to endure to get their hands on this juicy piece of hardware.

A Wal-Mart assistant manager in Milwaukee thought he would have some fun with the 50 or so people in line yesterday, so he decided on a way to divvy up the ten consoles the store would receive. He put ten chairs outside the store, and told the waiting crowd to gather elsewhere. Full-contact musical chairs? The prize: a PS3. At his signal, the crowd ran to the chairs, trying to claim it. One hospitalized 19-year-old later (kid ran into a pole), and the PS3's have been distributed. TMJ reports that there is no evidence of criminal activity, but the matter is being investigated.

In a textbook case of life imitates games, (Joystiq has the info), there was a drive-by shooting at a Kentucky Best Buy. The shooter sprayed the PS3-starving crowd (and a nearby news reporter) with BBs before vanishing into the night, presumably to go home and make love to his/her Xbox 360. Nobody was seriously injured, and considering they waited outside for days before this happened, I don't think any of them had enough pride left to damage, either.

Reuters is reporting an actual shooting at a Wal-Mart in Connecticut. At 3:15 this morning, armed suspects tried to hold-up the crowd of 15-20 people. One of the people in line confronted the gunmen and was subsequently shot. He was treated on-scene and sent to a hospital in Massachusets. Imagine telling that one to your grandkids, "I got this bulletwound in line for a PS3." No, you tell them you saved four puppies from Russian mobsters.

The crowd at a California Wal-Mart got a little rowdy (CBS reports), but I guess that's what happens when you get 75-100 testosterone- and energy drink-fueled nerds vying for the same prize. I would guess that if Seven-of-Nine had walked by, we would have seen a similar incident. Sheriff's deputies closed down the Wal-Mart when campers began running around the store. This happened Wednesday night, more than 24 hours before the console was released.

Anyhow, that's all I got, so I hope you stayed safe, stayed warm, and are sitting at home with the newest addition to your family.

The backwards compatability of the PS3 has been thown into question with the Japanese release. A Sony spokesperson related that 200 games have had compatability issues, mostly concerning audio difficulties and issues with mapping controls from the PS3 to the PS2 and PSOne. President of Sony Computer Entertainment America, Kaz Hirai, said that firmware upgrades will be created to fix the problem. "Or goal is 100 percent compatability," said Hirai, "we are trying to get there as quickly as possible."

It's a good thing they caught these at the Japanese launch, or we'd be suffering incomplete backwards compatability for weeks. Fortunately, there are 8,000 PS2 titles which work fine, so odds are you'll have something to play.

Source: Reuters

In honour of this most glorious weekend, Currents is going to crunch you some PS3/Wii numbers. They're crunchy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside.

Sales Prices (USD) [Reuters]
PS3 (High SKU)
PS3 (Low SKU)
Sales Prices on eBay (Average) (USD) [Reuters]
Japan Units at Launch [Yahoo! News] [IGN]
Projected Profits/Losses for Quarter Ending March 2007 (Millions) [Yahoo! News]
$1,700 (loss)
Sony (Games Division)
$845 (profit)

Well, just a quick sampling of the sugar-coated fun you'll have with me as a Currents Columnist.

I encourage you to head over to the message boards and comment on these stories. Was it cold out there, waiting for your PS3? Was it worth it? I sure hope so. And I hope this new Currents has perked up everyone's spirits. I'm a happy camper, anyway.

Well, thanks for checking in. Next Friday? It's a date.

//I don't show a signature image on first dates;
Theo Litowski

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