Hell, critics, and Miss USA

by Phil

One of the dominant and though often observed, seldom explored bifurcations of humanity is this: some people play computer games, and some do not. There is hardly a middle ground; among my acquaintances, anyway, there are damn few who occasionally play a game, but would just as soon not. No. There are gamers, and there are non-gamers.

Years ago, I tried a few of the games. I even played the original Adventure, when it was text only, and you had to restart the tape cassette every time you moved to a new location. As a grad student at RPI I car pooled with a computer science guy. Often when I picked him, we’d spend a few minutes with the game.

Adventure became Zork. I got my own copy, played it a few times, and even — when computers got glitzier and games got wilder — a tried a few others. But after a while….

If you’re too curious to ignore it and too young to remember it, you can now play a modernized version of Zork on-line.

Computer games now are a mega-industry, I gather, and players are as intense and fierce as, well, as the warriors they often simulate. Now, there’s a new one coming out. Here are excerpts from a review, which seems to me to tell as much about the gamer as about the game. I expect you’ll recognize the story without my naming it.

[Jargon alert: I have no idea what some words and phrases mean.]

Dante has a scythe that he stole off Death and he can use it to hit foes with light and hard attacks. He can grab them with a right trigger button or use his cross, which acts as a ranged weapon…. But one of the features that separates Dante’s Inferno from its peers is the idea of controlling tameable creatures.

In the adventure, the protagonist will come across enormous monsters that he can essentially ride like a mech and use to kill other enemies. It gives players an immense feeling of power but it also acts as a way to create a deeper moves list. Riding on one minotaurlike creature, I had to force it to scale some crumbling pillars.

But artistic license aside, there are also moments in the game that are cringe-inducingly literal. For example, you’ll actually run across unbaptized babies, which are mentioned in the text. EA Redwood Shores imagines them as zergling creatures that have blades for feet and Dante will have to kill them as they skitter, spiderlike, across the floor.

Doesn’t that sound like fun? Don’t you want to play?


Historically, American courts have not looked to the Russian province of Dagestan for legal precedents. Perhaps — and I offer this with only the highest and most noble of intentions — it is time they did. We poor artistic types, writers and actors, have forever been at the mercy of critics: people who lack the spark, drive, creativity, and intelligence to be artistic types themselves. Now, in Dagestan at least, there is recourse. Payback, one might say.

a federal district court in the southern Russian province of Dagestan issued an unprecedented ruling, ordering a journalist of a local newspaper to pay compensation in an amount equal to US$1,000 to a writer who did not like a review of his book published in the newspaper.

Like every other opening into new territory, this may trail off into obscurity, it may blaze a path for others to follow, or it may trigger an avalanche of altogether new and dangerous legalisms.

Sorry, the metaphor filter is broken this morning.

And so, as some Russian observers have already warned, this judgment could lead, for example, to lawsuits from readers who believe an author has sold them a defective novel.

Dan Brown, call your lawyer.


I do try to keep abreast of the news, but occasionally — as happened with the controversy over Miss California — my eyes glaze over despite the undeniable attraction of the participants.

What I did notice, without bothering to investigate, was that wide swaths of liberal blogdom (and LB can roll out a pretty damn wide swath) were incensed over comments made by the Miss CA entrant in the Miss USA contest, and later by news that the young woman had, at some point in her life, posed in her underwear.

What had the young lady said which so infected entire armies of libloggers with acute galloping fantods? She said that she believed marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Yikes!

All right, not yikes. Nor wow. Nor even Hmmm?

Look. It was her opinion, and one quite widely shared across the globe. I don’t have to agree with it to suggest, however mildly, that she is entitled to hold it.

And as for posing in her underwear. Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ. WTF do they think a beauty pageant is anyway?

What’s more, the alarm was sounded by the man who posed the original question to Miss CA, asking about her stand on marriage. And who he? He is a guy named Mario Lavandeira, who is better known as Perez Hilton, a celebrity blogger.

Latest news is, Donald Trump, who owns the Miss USA contest, says Miss CA can keep her crown, and compete in the finals.

So at the end of it all, here I am, having to side with Perez Hilton or with Donald Trump. Before this, I could not imagine a situation in life in which I would be forced to look favorably upon either man.

Fortunately, in this instance, I’m on the side of Miss CA. That Donald Trump is also on her side is unfortunate, but at least I don’t have to stand with him and with Perez Hilton.