The National Rifle Association (NRA) of the United States have released their very own video game as an iOS app. After trying to link video games to various mass shootings in the US this is... a bit of a strange move.
To be fair and in spite of some pundits declaring hypocrisy, NRA: Practice Range is not a violent video game. The only shooting you can do is at painted targets, as at most practice ranges in the real world including those used to train our police and militaries. It's no more violent than a game of darts.
But leaving aside the political situation behind this release, is the game itself any fun?
In short... no. It isn't.
Controlling your weapon is achieved one of two ways, either flailing your phone wildly in front of you with the gyroscopic controls or using a small onscreen joystick and an onscreen trigger button. And no, you can't invert the y-axis on the joystick, if you're used to flight sims.
While both methods of control track your movements with a fair degree of accuracy, moving the crosshair on the screen does require quite a bit of real world movement when using the gyroscopic controls. Use on public transport is not advised.
Unfortunately the accuracy of the controls is offset by the half second delay between tapping the screen to fire and your gun firing.
Perhaps that half second is there to give you time to reflect on your actions?
Three practice ranges are on offer. An indoor range with vaguely humanoid targets that appear and disappear in place, or slide back and forth across the screen at higher difficulty levels. The outdoor range is a field with various holes for targets to pop up through and a skeet shooting range where the discus style clay pigeon flies out from behind your shoulder.
Each range has different weapons available. The indoor range is for handguns, the outdoor for rifles and skeet shooting for shotguns. The game comes with one of each gun category unlocked and additional guns can be purchased for 99c each.
It's unclear how they expect to sell additional guns when the standard weapons sound dull and are animated poorly, on top of there not being anything particularly fun to do with them.
If this app cost any money up front it would be a travesty. As a free app, it is merely a wasted opportunity. Even the gun safety tips, laws and hunting season information is just links to websites. A dorky little gun trivia quiz could have made that section a bit of fun, at least.
Also, it crashes a lot. So even if you somehow enjoy the gameplay you'll keep getting interrupted by it breaking.
An all round awful waste of time.
Most every gaming site puts out a game of the year list once all the major releases are accounted for and most every gaming site gets it hopelessly, horribly wrong.
But that's half the fun, isn't it? Ask five random gamers and you're not going to get the same answer out of all five and the same applies when it's five separate groups of ill informed clowns.
Of course some places are objectively wrong, and you should absolutely tell them that. Loudly. And often!
But in the spirit of flailing a hand in the air and begging for attention, here's my not at all comprehensive list of games I thought were really pretty great in 2012.
To most people what KSI (real name, Olajide Olatunji) was shown doing at the Eurogamer Expo was clearly out of line. Asking why a woman is not presently engaged in self-pleasure in the middle of an exhibition hall is beyond the pale, not to mention the way he decided to address the first lady shown in the clip.
There's been a lot of back and forth over whether it was or wasn't assault, whether the women were in on the gag and if there was anything wrong with his behaviour in the first place.
One look at the video has been enough for most people. Many can't even finish watching, the behaviour is so disgusting. Two of the women involved have said they were not prepared for his line of questioning, though the one who was "motorboated" gave her consent at the time and has since said she has no issue with KSI. The woman referred to as "Massive Tits" has since accepted KSI's apology for any offence caused. It was clearly not planned prior to the camera being switched on. The question of whether it was or wasn't assault would ultimately be up to the courts, if anyone chose to press charges - which seems unlikely.
What has ruffled a lot of fan-feathers is the publication of the article which originally drew attention to the video. Some KSI fans feel that the women themselves are the only ones with the right to complain about their treatment and that it's not the media's place to object.
Well, that's just rubbish. It is absolutely the media's place to shine a light in the dark corners of society and it always has been.
Further, it's the responsibility of the community to stand up and say that this behaviour is not okay. KSI has a quarter of a million followers on Twitter and who knows how many others via other sources. Whether he sees himself as influential or a role model of sorts, he is one. A lot of people will watch that video and think what he is doing is just harmless fun. And, if he had gotten away without punishment, they may have tried to emulate him.
Fortunately since then the Eurogamer Expo has banned him from future shows. I would imagine shows run by other companies will be keeping an eye on him, too. Or perhaps that is wishful thinking.
In any case, fans have leapt to his defense on websites and Twitter, attacking anyone daring to express dismay or disgust. Julie Horup merely collated some of the responses on her blog and received a bunch of angry tweets in return.
I tweeted about it once - once! - and managed to get someone on my case. Admittedly, I laughed as they told me to get a life after they'd clearly gone searching for someone to harass... :)
I can only imagine the torrent of hatemail Wesley Copeland and Ian Miles Cheong must have received for writing and publishing the original article.
And all because they dared to suggest people shouldn't be disgustingly disrespectful to others.
We need more of this, not less. The more people avoid the issues because it's "not their problem," the longer this sort of thing will continue. Yes, it's often uncomfortable challenging such entrenched behaviour, particularly from such well known figures.
Yet if nobody is holding them accountable, why would they ever stop doing it?
Not every game leaves much room for exploration and even those that let you wander off the beaten path don't always have anything to see when you get there.
Guild Wars 2 has things to see and do in obscure locations, but even if it didn't, I think I'd still waste a bunch of my time exploring...
Lots of games have high score boards. It's been a staple of gaming practically since gaming was invented. Old arcade machines let you choose three letters to digitally scratch on the board beside your score and in the modern era a lot of score based games upload your result to the internet, assuring virtual immortality.
And that's neat.
But Zombie Driver stores a player's Slaughter-mode high scores on the internet via Steam. So you can see exactly how well your friends have done on any given map and set yourself a target.
The bit I really like? While playing the game your next highest scoring friend has their name in the upper right corner of the screen, alongside how many more points you need to surpass them.
It's such a small thing to include and many may never even know it's there. But I like it.
Zombie Driver is just $10 on Steam, if running over zombies while competing against your friends is stuff you like.
When given a choice between a male and female when creating and customising a new avatar for a game, more often than not I'll choose a female. My primary alter ego in most MMOs is a redheaded, ponytailed lady, when customisation options allow.
This isn't a gender identity issue, I don't think I'm a woman trapped inside the body of a manchild. And it isn't the oft-repeated reason of other male gamers - if you're going to stare at an arse for hundreds of hours it may as well be a ladybum. Nor do I ever pretend I am a lady in real life, mostly because the people who ask such things are only asking because they're sleazebags.
No, the reason I do it is because when it comes to customising a look and choosing an outfit and all the rest of it, it's a lot more fun doing so for a woman than it is a man. In part because it's not something I could do ordinarily, where I could dress a bloke up however I wanted, whenever I wanted, because I am a bloke.
But also because most games offer a more interesting set of options for female avatars. Sometimes that just means more "revealing" clothing or a slider for boob size, but not always.
I know it seems a little silly, especially in games where designing an image for a character is lost on most due to combat oriented gameplay being at the forefront.
But what it comes down to is that this:
Is much more interesting to me than this:
Maybe it is an issue that exists more in my mind than in reality. Most games do offer plenty of options when creating male characters and have heaps of clothing/armour to choose from. Yet most of the time I get sick of trying to create a guy I'm happy with and start the creation process over as a chick.
I really wanted to post some more pictures of past female characters but it turns out that, even when I do remember to take screenshots, I don't have any sort of plan to keep track of the resulting files.
Since I have a blog, I might start taking a nice picture or two of my character/s when I inevitably play more games. Maybe I'll include a little bit about whatever the game is, what that character's goals are... maybe I'll just throw a picture up.
Maybe I'll forget altogether and this will be the last entry on the subject.
I'm not a fan of "gay" being used in a derogatory fashion. Both when it's used to demean other people and when it's used to express dissatisfaction with some thing or concept or... whatever. This is not a secret, I've railed against it any number of times.
But why? Why isn't it okay to say a Team Fortress 2 map is gay? Or the pen that keeps running out is gay? Or paying extra for pineapple on your pizza is gay?
Because every time you use it that way you're reinforcing the notion that "gay" is synonymous with "bad". And therefore being gay is bad.
You may not mean it in the sense of homosexuals being bad. It likely doesn't cross most people's minds at the time they utter it. It's become so ingrained in some people that they'll actually defend their usage of the word. They think it's been "reclaimed" or somehow repurposed to not refer to homosexuality anymore, despite the prominent usage in various advocacy groups and celebrations like the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
I am not a writer.
I say that a lot, especially of late, but I don't think people really understand why. It's not false modesty, or fishing for people to tell me I am one, or that I am good at it. It's that I think the standard of writing required to be labelled a writer is markedly higher than my own skills in the field.
Compiling recaps of The Biggest Loser isn't much more than transcription with a few swears and observations thrown in. It's more about having the ability to type a decent amount of words per minute than it is any particular ability with shaping those words into something worth reading.
If you've played Star Wars Galaxies in the past couple of years you could be forgiven - barely - for thinking the game is nothing but a World of Warcraft style MMO when it comes to selecting and playing a class in that galaxy far, far away. It hasn't always been so.
What you've experienced is what Sony Online Entertainment dubbed the "New Game Experience", commonly abbreviated as the NGE, introduced in 2005 in a misguided attempt to recapture player interest in the game.
But what came before the NGE? How did players develop their characters before the dark times?
There's been a lot of discussion on Twitter about the "friend zone". Or so Draqul says on her Tumblr thing. For the most part it has passed me by.
Reading the linked email on Reddit from "Mike" to the unlucky Lauren, I can see why it would be a topic of debate, especially on The Twitters, where we love to talk about everything and forget we only have 140 characters. Though I'm not sure why anyone would want to friend zone Mike. He seems like a real catch!
But what I really want to talk about is the lack of friend zone issues experienced by Draqul, or more exactly, my chronic and perpetual friend zoning by every female, ever. And why it's not actually a terrible curse.
There's a number of reasons I am eternally in the "just a friend" box, from being beaten by the ugly stick to living in the wrong state to just plain being a dude when the lady in question prefers anything but men. And every possible reason in between. I'm sure this is not an unfamiliar situation for a lot of people on both sides of the gender-fence. And it causes a lot of angst, for some.
But think about it for a moment - okay, you might not get to touch The Boobies. But there must be other things you like about this person, right? They enjoy the same sorts of movies, or music or outdoor activities? Maybe they're a big fan of video games or philosophy books. Or they tell great jokes and funny anecdotes. Perhaps they too collect stamps.
Regardless of what it is, you still share that with them and thus they are likely to be a good friend. And while most everyone is a fan of boobies, having friends is hardly the worst thing in the world.
If it was only a physical attraction to begin with then there really are plenty more fish in the sea. Probably ones with which you share interests and who are also open to a relationship with you. Perhaps that girl who put you in the friend zone will introduce you...?
Just don't be like Mike and not recognise when it's time to let it go. Calling someone "impolite, immature, passive aggressive, and cowardly" is not the way to their heart.
And if all else fails, high class call girls/boys are probably cheaper anyway. :-P