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Friday, February 27, 2015

Rant Mode ON: Copyright Silliness

Here's where I go off on a rant. If you don't like it, you can either click on the back button or close the browser window you jerk. No one is going to stop you. But the rest of us will sit here and stare at you awkwardly while you do so.....

All good now? Have all the negative Nancys left? Good, then on with the rant....

There are a few things in life that are important to me, amongst them are video games, and music. I love music, always have. My parents taught me the importance of a good song, and I remember listening to various artists over the years while my family traveled around the far reaches of my home state of Utah. Years later I learned that there was more to a good song than just a catchy tune. As I got older and understood more of the world, I learned to also appreciate the lyrics that often go in hand with a memorable tune. Although sometimes the tune itself is enough to sell a mood/feeling, or otherwise invoke an emotional connection to something. John Williams is a modern composer who has time and time again proven that songs do not need lyrics to provide that emotional response. But I digress.

In addition to the traditional real world music, there is also a plethora of musical scores associated with the world of video games. It's really no surprise though. There is nothing quite like blasting your way through waves of enemies or cruising through a racing circuit while listening to a well-written musical score. I know that over the years there are plenty of classic game soundtracks that have been converted in to ringtones. They are simply superb!

So what am I getting at? "How the hell is this a rant?" I hear you all asking. Well, if you shut your trap for a second I will indulge you. There are some games that just can't quite cut the mustard, as the old saying goes, when it comes to providing a compelling soundtrack. And when I found myself facing one of those rare times where I was in the mood to play an abortion of a game like RoboCop on the NES, but didn't want to rely on the game's built in soundtrack, I had the option of putting something in to my home stereo system and providing my own soundtrack. For the record RoboCop on the NES didn't have the worst soundtrack ever made. It was just kind of boring and left little to desire.

Let's now flash-forward to today. In today's modern digital universe, music is everywhere. You can find it online, and usually it's completely free. This is a thing that wasn't even in the realm of possibility when I was a child. I remember a time in the not too distant past where sharing music digitally was the thing to do. Remember Napster? Remember how easy it was to find new music online? Remember the record companies all shitting their pants about how all of it was wrong, immoral, and how it would lead to birth defects and some great plague that would be even worse than AIDS? Remember that paranoia? Yeah? Well what now? What's changed? Oh there were new laws drafted that brought about this whole thing about digital copyright protection and on and on. But in this writer's opinion, it's worse now than it was in the days of Napster. MUSIC IS LITERALLY EVERYWHERE! There are millions of videos online where you can find and listen to music, even an entire album if you are so inclined. People still share music in the digital realm. Have the musicians/artists/record labels suffered great financial loss? Well if they are, they sure as hell hide it from public very well.

I will pause here to acknowledge some things that need to be clarified at this juncture.

In general, I am in favor of copyright protection. I understand that it takes a lot of effort and time for these artists to write, compose and other wise create these songs that we all love. I have artists in my own family, so I understand the need to preserve intellectual property. I DO NOT WISH TO TAKE ANYTHING AWAY FROM THE ARTISTS THEMSELVES.

The problem I have is when it comes to something as simple as using an already published and plentiful song as the backdrop for a larger project. I love music. I love video games. If I want to make a video about a video game experience, and drop in a snippet of a song as either bumper music, or even add it faintly in to the background while I narrate to help set the mood, is that really something to get all bent out of shape over? I will gladly acknowledge the 3rd party requirements that always pop up on certain online video channels, but should that really prohibit me from sharing an experience of my own with the rest of the world, just because I added an already abundant piece of music to it? I think not. The truth is, that the artist and record company associated with the particular piece of music has already MADE MORE MONEY THAN MOST PEOPLE WILL EVER EARN IN AN ENTIRE FUCKING LIFETIME from record and ticket sales, along with other merchandising profits. They are not hurting for income. Yet they stand on that cornerstone all the god damn time. So my choosing to incorporate this song or musical score in to a silly video online is really a neutral act in my opinion. I should be able to construct and share something like that with out fear of having some giant hand come down and thump me on the skull for copyright infringement. FUCKING least in my opinion.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015


 Even though the reason I finally went out and bought a used PS2 years ago was because of the game Crazy Taxi, the 2005 Lucas Arts game Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction remains one of the bigger reasons I often recommend people to own a PS2 console. Oh sure the game was also available on the Xbox platform, but at the time Sony had the bigger library of games than Microsoft, at least in my mind. It may be of note to mention at this point that I don't even own Crazy Taxi anymore.
So what is it about Mercenaries that has kept it on my gaming shelves for so long? Well, simply put, it's fun blowing shit up. At the time I got this game I had never really played any "sandbox" games. I had heard of Grand Theft Auto, but had never played it. I understood the concept of open world video games, and had played a few of them, but had yet to really experience it on the level that was available in Mercenaries. The day I bought it and put it in to my PS2 system my life changed forever. There was no looking back, I was immediately hooked on this whole sandbox/open world gaming design. From that point forward I wanted all video games to be like this.

I will openly admit at this point that I have never completed Mercenaries. Not once, not even a little bit. The big reason why I have never beaten it is due to the reason why I like this game, it’s fun blowing shit up. I find that it's a lot more fun to just run around blowing up the NK force's buildings, and vehicles. Oh sure, I stumble upon the members of the "Deck of 52" while I am out running around, but I have never actually gotten to all the cards, and I have yet to complete all the different missions and side missions available through the various factions within the game. I guess you could say that I am easily distracted, and get caught up just exploring the streets and country sides of South Korea.

When you toss in the additional cheat codes that are available for this game, plus some of the un-lockable items that Lucas Arts included, it really makes it tough to want to try and complete this game in a point A to point B type of fashion. There are just so many fun things to do. I know I always try to find fun new ways of what I call "Car Farming" With monetary bounty available for all destroyed North Korean vehicles it can be fun to gather large quantities of various ones and arrange them in a line or large group setting, set some C4 explosive nearby, and detonate it for a little extra money. Plus it’s a lot of fun to watch the cars and debris go flying all over the place. For examples of that, please see the following videos:


Even though I have yet to complete this game in full, I still find it to be one of my favorite games from the PS2 era. There is something that just never gets old with running around randomly blowing things up in a fictional military setting. There are just so many areas to explore, and the NPC's inside the game will often times provide additional comic relief. Amongst the funnier actions, I have actually seen citizens and military people alike just walk off cliffs and drown in the lakes/rivers below. What will you see while exploring this land? LORD HAVE MERCENARIES!