It’s time for another exciting edition of What I’ve Been Reading! This week’s is mainly gaming-and-technology-related, but if you’re not into either of those things, then fear not! There’s an article about music and Canadian copyright law that I picked out just for you.

  • Owen Good at Kotaku is angry about the Apple App Store. He argues that the company’s bureaucracy merely verifies if an app contains pornography, without verifying its legitimacy whatsoever. I’m not sure it’s that bad, but Good has a point. The sheer number of rip-offs and knockoffs that are making it into the app store should be raising more than a few eyebrows. For now, the apps that have been copied or plagiarized are mainly niche apps or games. But as soon as someone successfully scams a lot of people with a cheap knockoff of a popular, widely-used app, Apple will have a PR imbroglio on its hands.
  • Steve Watts of The Escapist has an article about letting players play as military personnel other than soldiers in video games. While there are many military strategy games that allow the player to command entire armies, in almost all military games where the player assumes the role of a single person, that person is a soldier. What about medics or engineers? I admire the sentiment of Watts’ article, but I question whether his proposals are implementable. People play games for entertainment, and I wonder if gamers would actually embrace a wartime medical simulator, for instance. If it’s not fun to operate on virtual patients, then such a game simply isn’t viable.
  • The Copyright Board of Canada has approved new tariffs to apply to recorded music being played at live events such as karaoke bars, parades, and even weddings. My reaction: NO. FUCK THIS SHIT. The proceeds will go to Re:Sound, an organization that helps up-and-coming musicians, but I wonder how much will actually end up in the artists’ pockets. And what about karaoke nights and parades that are held for charity? Are we seriously going to start dipping into one charity’s money in order to fund another? Intellectual property law is totally fucking out of control. We already have a tax on blank media such as CDs and DVDs. How long until we’re taxed on camcorders and cameras because they can be used to record concerts?
  • Richard Browne, a former Sony insider, has a pair of articles (here and here) about the rise and fall of the consumer electronics giant. It’s an interesting look at how hubris and being out of touch with consumers can sink a company’s fortunes.
  • Now that a few former 38 Studios employees are speaking out, Gamasutra has another take on the studio’s downfall and the resulting political brouhaha it caused in Rhode Island. This one is more sympathetic to Curt Schilling than past editorials have been, and it also brings to light some questionable behaviour by Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee. No matter how nice Schilling might have been to his employees, I still think that his lack of business savvy was one of the primary causes of the studio’s downfall. That being said, if Chafee is deliberately spreading falsehoods about the situation, such as misstating the purpose of missed payments or artificially deflating the studio’s sales figures, in order to bolster his political position, then he’s a slimy, oily piece of shit.
  • You’ve probably heard of the recent furor caused by the controversial “Attack of the Saints” trailer for the upcoming game Hitman: Absolution. In case you don’t want to watch two-and-a-half minutes of pure stupidity, let me summarize: A bunch of female assassins dressed as nuns rip off their habits to reveal assorted weaponry and skintight outfits. Then, Agent 47 attacks them, beating the shit out of them in increasingly bloody and violent fashion. Then, you stick your head in a toilet bowl and flush repeatedly because it’s not worth living on a planet capable of producing such mindless dreck. Jim Sterling at Gamefront is happy that this trailer caused controversy, because the conversation about gender and gaming is one that we should absolutely be having. However, Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade has a slightly different (but not contradictory) take on the issue. He believes that the existence of such a trailer doesn’t reflect poorly on video games as a whole. While what Holkins is saying would be true in an ideal world, to outsiders, video games still appear to be cesspools of sex and violence. Controversies such as these are what the mainstream media seize upon. Thus, “sex and violence” is very much the public face of gaming, like it or not.

Well, that does it for this week’s digest of the stuff I’ve been looking at on the Web. As always, feel free to leave comments!