Missed Opportunities

[originally published in The Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine, Issue #104, May 2006]

A few years back I got a letter from my mom. Amid the pleasantries and family updates was this particularly touching passage:

“‘Far be it from me to tell you what to do’…but I felt I must say something.

“I wish — I ask — I plead with you. Please try to do something to discourage those violent, antisocial videogames such as Grand Theft Auto. (I’ve read and heard more negative comments about this game in particular.)

“You have always cared about others — and cared deeply, I believe. I just can’t believe that you don’t care what effect these games have on other people — especially on kids and teens. I know you say they are for adults. Well, even if adults were the only ones to play them (and they aren’t), the game can influence adults who are not emotionally and morally mature — and can even affect those who are. This sort of thing is depressing, at the very least, and we all ought to try to be uplifting and encouraging, and most of all, responsible. We are our brothers’ keepers.

“You might think that you have no influence on the game designers, but I believe that you do. If you care, your voice could influence others to join you in protesting. And if you don’t make a difference at this time, your attempts could bring a change in the future — so that your children might live in a more peaceful world.” Continue reading “Missed Opportunities”

The Real and the Semi-Real

“I weep for the future.” –Ferris Beuller’s Day Off

I’ve been following this thread over at the GAF about a guild who crashed a virtual funeral in World of Warcraft, and it makes me sad. Basically, what happened is this: A member of a WOW guild suffered a stroke in real life and died. Her guildmates, knowing her only through the game, but nevertheless wanting to offer some remembrance for one of their own, decided to hold a memorial service in the game. A rival guild decided that would be a great time to show up and kill everyone. Hilarity ensued.

Now, is it sort of creepy and vaguely sad that a group of people elected to hold a virtual funeral? I’d say so. It lends a depressing weight to the stereotype of basement-dwelling gamers who can’t function in the real world. In my opinion, it trivializes the real loss that this person’s real-life loved ones feel. But saying gamers aren’t the most socially adept subculture isn’t going to surprise anyone, and the fact is, these people did have a relationship with the deceased, however unorthodox. You can’t criticize someone for feeling grief simply because they haven’t met the deceased in the physical world. You can criticize their method of paying their respects, but I don’t see how you could criticize their right to do so, or the validity of their desire to do so.

And so this rival guild storms in, in a very well-planned strike (and yes, it’s pretty comical if you don’t think about it too hard), sending virtual mourners scurrying and leaving a trail of virtual bodies in their wake. Were they within their rights as WOW players to choose this moment to strike against a rival guild? Oh, absolutely.

But “within your rights” does not equal “right.” Continue reading “The Real and the Semi-Real”

10 Things I’ve Done That You Probably Haven’t

OPM columnist John Scalzi posted an entry on his personal blog where he invited readers to list 10 things they’ve done that most people haven’t. It sounded like a fun idea, and responding reminded me I’ve had an oddly interesting life. So here are my 10; feel free to add your own in comments or on your own blog! (If you do put it on your own blog, leave me a message to that effect in comments, ok?)

1. Headlined a punk rock show in a Masonic temple in Trenton, New Jersey. The opening band was a very young Less Than Jake, followed by a surprise appearance by Bobby Steele (formerly of the Misfits) and his band the Undead, who performed a 3-song set on our equipment. Their closing song was a freakin’ incredible rendition of “Last Caress” (which Steele wrote but Glenn Danzig stole and copyrighted under his own name) in which Steele paused before the final verse and slyly commented, “Often imitated, never duplicated.” \m/ Continue reading “10 Things I’ve Done That You Probably Haven’t”

If Airlines Ruled the World

Dear Valued Amazon Customer,

We regret to inform you that your order for Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace cannot be fulfilled at this time due to product unavailability. It is the policy of Amazon to sell more copies of our books than we have in stock, on the chance that earlier orders may be cancelled. Unfortunately we have drastically underestimated demand for this title.

We do value your business, thus we will be sending you an only very slightly used copy of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment instead. It will be arriving in four to six weeks. We understand that your original order was due to be shipped in three days, and that your replacement title has a significantly lower retail price, and we regret that we are not able to offer any refund or adjustment to your payment. We remind you that these policies are clearly outlined in our Terms of Service (which you may obtain by sending in a self-addressed, stamped envelope to our corporate office).

As always, we thank you for shopping with us, and we look forward to your continued business.

Amazon Customer Service Continue reading “If Airlines Ruled the World”