South Park vs. EA
I've been a fan of South Park almost since its inception, and this week's episode made me proud. By having the kids set up a "Crack Baby Basketball" league, profit from it, and refuse to compensate the crack babies in question, the show poked fun at the NCAA for its unwillingness to pay the "student athletes" who bring in all the organization's money.
Why am I mentioning this in a roundup of video game news? Because one way the NCAA profits off student basketball is to sell licensing rights to EA Sports. To parody this, the South Park boys worked with EA to create a Crack Baby Basketball game. Brought in for extra ridicule was EA head Peter Moore, who was represented in the episode by a "Mr. Peters."
I'd tell you more about South Park's portrayal of EA, but instead, I'll refrain from spoiling it and just recommend that you watch the episode. It's even funnier if you bear in mind that South Park has pilloried EA before. In the wake of Tiger Woods's public humiliation, South Park depicted a version of Tiger Woods Golf that included some activities besides, well, golf.
Speaking of EA, do you remember Syndicate, the company's cyberpunk RTS series from the early 1990s? To be honest, I don't, but I was pretty young then. I'm sure that the potential of a reboot is a very big deal to some people.
Anyhow, what is allegedly a script for a new game in the series has leaked. If the patents it has filed are any indication, Starbreeze Studios will take over development duties from the now-nonexistent Bullfrog Productions. Starbreeze has turned RTS games into first-person shooters before, so that's a possibility as well.
Slave MMO Labor?
I rarely delve into international politics here, but I thought I'd point to the Guardian's recent report that in China, prisoners are being forced to farm gold in MMO games. They work twelve-hour shifts, and they're beaten if they don't meet their quotas. Evidently, it's more profitable to force people to make digital items than to make real ones.
Chinese officials have denied there's a problem (of course), and it's not clear what can be done from outside of China. After all, many non-prisoners farm gold from China, too, and there's no way for MMO companies to tell the difference. But this is a problem for the gaming community to be aware of.
Australia Making a Non-Stupid Rating System?
I'm actually a fan of ratings systems. They have their problems—see the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated for a good summary of issues with the MPAA, which rates movies. But they also help parents decide what entertainment is appropriate for their kids, and they allow entertainers to release edgy material without fear that it will be outright censored.
So it is with great joy that I note the Australian government's proposal for a new R18+ rating. Unlike in the U.S., Australian ratings are handed out by the government and are not optional. Until now, the highest available rating for video games was R15+. This meant that if a game wasn't appropriate for a 15-year-old in the eyes of the Australian government, it couldn't be sold Down Under. In addition to being silly on its face, this system was inconsistent with the way the government rated movies, which have long had the R18+ rating as an option.
This proposal is a victory for free speech, something we in the gaming community should always support.
Status: Outrageous, but hopefully not for long.
Another Square Enix MMO?
I have a confession to make: Back when I reviewed Final Fantasy XIV, I went too easy on it. (See for yourself here. //www.cheatcc.com/pc/rev/finalfantasyxivreview.html) As I saw it, the game's problems, while annoying, would certainly be cleared up after a patch or two, and the very promising story would shine. Instead, the company has taken months to revamp the game and rearrange its staff, and the end still isn't in sight. To this day, Square Enix isn't even charging monthly subscription fees. What seemed like a potential World of Warcraft competitor isn't even on the MMO radar screen.
So, I was kind of interested by the announcement that SE will be announcing a new MMO this fiscal year (that is, by March 2012). If this means they're giving up on FFXIV, they should probably give players of that game a bonus for switching over—they've suffered enough already. Otherwise, it will be interesting to see whether Square Enix learned anything from its spectacular flop.
Status: Potentially outrageous.
By Robert VerBruggen
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*