Monday, March 31, 2008

Age Restriction

Theres been a lot of stuff in the media recently about video games and violence. Specifically, there is a plan to put age restriction similar to that used on films on these games. This is probably fine. While I think legal guidelines for the purchase of games is somewhat silly, ultimately to my mind the purpose of these should always be to guide parents in their purchases, not to act as strict laws.

It is up to the parent to decide how mature their child is, and whether they want them to play on games with more adult content. I suspect that most 14 year olds are pretty much able to handle most of the violent content one can see in any film or video game, but obviously thats my own call, and it's up to each parent to make their decision. By making it illegal for underage children to purchase these titles, it at least forces the parent to get involved in some way in the decision making process, which is probably all for the good.

Of course we are lucky in that we do not have a system like America's where the rating "Adult only" has come to mean something pornographic despite the films and games being put in that rating often not acheiving that. They certainly have sex in them, but it is usually artistically done. I hesitantly include GTA:San Andreas in this, because after all, the violence is probably far more explicit than the sex in the hot coffee mod. However, thanks to most stores and most cinemas not stocking/showing these titles, it means self censorship is forced on most of these titles unless they want to become a commercial pariah. This was all brought up in This Film is Not Yet Rated, but it is important. Censorship of all kinds is wrong.

This brings me to a problem with the British system, where the BBFC will censor or even ban things it thinks are inappropriate- it did so to Manhunt 2, only to be overturned later on. Frankly the issue there was not that they were wrong about the level of content in Manhunt: they were: but that they felt the need to ban it in the first place. I think that it is not up to an unelected board of people to decide what I do and do not get to watch, certainly give information if the content is extreme, but ultimately I like to imagine i am discerning enough to decide if I want to see something as supposedly awful as that game.


Sunday, March 30, 2008


So, I'm back home again with coursework to do. Fun fun fun. A sorting through of the work I need to get done reveals I have less to do than I originally imagined, which is always the good way round to discover things. Still, enough to keep me busy this month, then revision next month, then exams that month, then dissertation the next, then it's on to a PhD! A rather busy life, sadly, and no time to do what I'm doing, sitting round blogging in my pyjamas. I still am going to do it, of course, but I might feel guilty about it at the time...

We tried ordering online from asda, which was mostly a success, although I managed to accidentally order some pasta called pennoni, which is like penne only ridiculously large. Sadly internet pictures do not give it in proportion to anything, although they do reveal pennoni is also a last name..... I guess you will have to trust me that pennoni is large pasta.

You'll notice that I'm attempting to use tags on my post, so if you are interested in a particular theme you can click the tag and read all posts tagged by it. It's only worth it if I keep it up as at the moment there are about 1 post per tag.....


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Console Wars

As you may or may not know, there is a war going on amoungst consoles, as there has been for several decades, which is fought over and over again for domination in the market. It is an unpredictable war, and while one company, like Sega, might be dominant for one generation, the next one they might cease to exist after some incredibly bad commercial decisions.

The biggest upturn of this generation is the wii, which is actually not that exceptional a console, but has several things going for it

-it's the cheapest option. For a while this margin was massive in terms of price differentials
-It has a neat gimmick with the wiimote and motion sensing. The technology to do this was not remarkably new, but the execution was much better
-They marketed to a whole new audience.

The last one was key, and more key than other companies really cottoned on to. By targeting non-traditional gamers the Wii has proved to be absurdly succesful, but one could argue that it has not necessarily stolen the market share that the xbox and the ps3 were looking for- instead it has found a new and possibly better one.

It's worth noting that the so called "attach rate" for the wii is rather poor- a lot of people buy a wii but don't buy any games other than those that come with the console. This is not helped by a lot of developers not really knowing what to do with the console, so a lack of really good games has been annoying to those of us who are actually gamers....

Thus far decent games for the Wii, as far as I see it, have been Zelda, Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime, Resident evil 4, Super Smash Bros Brawl and possibly No More Heroes. The others are all tacky mini-game fests which get a bit old after ten minutes of playing. Have one and then you don't need anymore really....

Ultimately the crushing success of the Wii might actually be bad for those who consider themselves gamers, because developers are beginning to notice that the casual market is hugely succesful. Things like peggle and that jewel game I've temporarily forgotten the name of have proved very succesful on the pc, which also provides an excellent method of distribution via the internet, something the consoles lack. I hope this won't discourage developers from still creating proper games, and instead merely broadens the amount of games out there for people to play.

The x-box 360 and ps3 have ended up competing for the so called "hardcore" market by themselves, and thus far the xbox has done rather better, probably because it has been out for much longer, and the ps3 costs 100 pounds more. If you look at the trend of the last few generations, it is rarely the most powerful machine that is the most succesful. Instead it will be the cheapest and easiest to develop for, while not sacrificing too much graphical power.

A lot of games these days are developed cross consoles. After all, if a developer wants to make the most money it seems in their interest to have the largest possible market to appeal to, so exclusive games for a console are getting fewer and further between. They still exist- Final fantasy and metal gear solid will be coming out exclusively for the ps3, but most games are now on both. This means that unless someone really wants an exclusive game, they can compare how these games look on each console and pick. Most games look fairly similar between the xbox 360 and the ps3, and there have been some rather surprising reports of games taking much longer to load on the ps3, possibly because people don't know how to program for it.

So, X-box 360 seems to be the best choice, it's certainly the one i'm making. Sadly, of course, that means throwing my lot in with microsoft, but lets face it, sony are hardly a lovely corporation that pet bunnies and... do whatever else a lovely corporation might do, if such a thing existed....


Friday, March 28, 2008

Studio 60

I recently bought Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It's not often that I out and out buy DVDs of series, but in this case I do not regret it. The show was brilliant, and was sadly cancelled after one season, rather ironic as it was talking about how more literate programming keeps getting cancelled....

Studio 60 stars Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Amanda Peet and Sarah Paulson, and the performances given by all are fantastic. Sarah Paulson in particular is absolutely fantastic, especially as I don't think she's been in much else before this. It details the behind the scenes going ons at a show very similar to Saturday Night Live, including the making of the show, and the politics behind it.

It's clever, witty, sometimes hilarious, with characters who grip you and you want to see succeed. It has few failings, the main one being that it occasionally has sketches from the show within a show, which are almost all awful, and at best borderline amusing. While this rarely distracts from your enjoyment, sometimes you wish they'd get on with the interesting stuff instead.

I would fully reccommend everyone goes and buys this on DVD now. You will not regret it.


Wedding blog

For those of you interested in my marriage to the lovely Alice White, you can read this blog, which, as you can tell, does not have many posts yet. But it well


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter time

Misteltoe and wine? I think I have an urge to rhyme time with wine constantly. Anyhow, I am home and enjoying myself, playing ticket to ride (a marvelous board game I would reccommend to all), and drinking wine. There have been wedding meetings already, as you might expect, and I think theres even a reasonable plan as to where we are all going.

Of course the sword of coursework looms over my head, with a tremendous amount to get done before the month of april ends, but I figure some time off will let me relax, and help me build up into a full blown panic for once I return.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Got my offer for my PhD today. I am to be studying the broad region of Design of Experiments in statistics, which I'm sure sounds baffling to most of my eager audience. A fairly exciting time all in all, which is for the good.

My laptop died the other day, which is somewhat frustrating- it only makes beeps when you switch it on now, which indicates some kind of hardware failure. Lacking the kind of knowledge to open the thing up without making it much worse, I'll have to go through the fun and frolics of getting the bastard thing fixed. It is under guarantee, but thanks to various shenannigans, I'll have to wait quite a while before getting the receipt to even prove that it is, and then wait even longer for John Lewis to get it fixed. Oh well, I have Alice's laptop to work on instead, which is having the honour of being installed with various wonderful statistical programs, such as R, S Plus, and SAS. Sadly STATA isn't free, and is also an evil abomination of a program.....

Random names of other statistical programs, you ask? Why they include minitab, and SPSS and Mlwin and.... ok I actually don't know anymore names. Ooh, yes I do, CIA is another one! I am probably the only person excited by that snippet of information, but never mind.