Wild Musing

Writing – Diary of a Budding Freelance

No Sex In Games Please-We Are American

Working on the gig I have at the moment which involves writing about games I have become quite the campaigner against censorship in games, you are likely to hear a fair bit about that in the future. I have also learned quite a lot about the way sex is used in video games. I thought I would share some of my thought with you.

In actual fact it is not just America but actually most of the Western World that has a problem with sex in games. It just opens a whole can of worms, I covered the early versions of ’sexy’ games in the first part of this series. I would now like to move into the more modern era and see how attitudes to sex in games and the depiction of sex itself has changed over time. And the truth of the matter is that this rather depends on where you live and your culture’s attitude to such things. America seems to be the least tolerant, quickly followed by the rest of the Western World. Japan on the other hand does not seem to worry about anything to do with sex, to the point where even the most liberal of us worry if things can go too far.

Let’s start with a character that actually managed to create very little controversy anywhere, just wonder at her awesomeness and awareness that people could consider video game characters sexy. At the beginning of the modern era we see Lara Croft (if you do not acknowledge Tomb Raider as the start of the modern era then you are too young to have an opinion.). This little lady changed the way people thought about video game characters forever, as author Damon Brown puts it in his book Porn and Pong

In Lara well adjusted men were contemplating sleeping with a bunch of pixels, lusting after a digital diva that didn’t exist -and actually admitting it to other people. Lara represents the first time America fell in lust with the idea of someone in a video game.

Even though there was no actual sex in the game Lara changed our attitudes to sexuality in games, they were becoming sexy in more than one way. Years later when Playboy did its first spread of video game characters, Lara would not be in it but make no mistake without her it would never have happened.

It would take the GTA titles to really make people sit up and take notice of sex in games again. Grand Theft Auto Three would cause comment because of its scenes with prostitutes. This franchise had the most disturbing sexual overtones to any set of games yet. It was probably the hint of violence with the sex that took it to a new level. As most of you know you could pursue the prostitute and kill her to retrieve your money. Was this justified in a game? A few things need to be taken into account when answering this question.

The first one is that the game already had a mature rating. It is clearly not designed for children. So the question of whether the sex is appropriate for children is no more relevant than it would be with a mature rated movie. This brings me to the second point. The sex in GTA is in keeping with the plot of the story and the character you are playing. If this was a movie it would probably be praised for its gritty realism.

The next time the GTA series got into trouble was to involve the subject of interactive sexual content in a game. The ‘Hot Coffee’ scene that was accidently included in San Andreas is too famous for me to have to recount here, suffice to say that accident or not, this game gave the gamer the first chance to actually participate in the sexual act since Custer’s Revenge. It went down like a lead ballon with the campaigners. There was a huge backlash against the series.

It is probably due to this backlash and a desire to avoid a repeat that Fahrenheit or Indigo Prophecy as those of you in the States know it, shipped without the interactive sex scene that people in every other country in the world would be able to play. It is probably fair to say that though the culture of America is very similar in a lot of ways to that of countries like Britain and Australia, the latter two do not have as many fundamentalist Christian pressure groups. It is probably the slightly more religious basis to the culture that stopped Americans from seeing this content.

And where is Japan in all this? How have they fared with sex in games in the modern era? Well, while we are debating the presence of tasteful alien sex scenes in the game Mass Effect some Japanese are legally playing what can only be termed as rape simulators. Nobody seemed to be at all bothered about this until someone tried to sell a second hand copy on Amazon to a British audience This caused a massive furor.

Back here in the Western World though, taking the vocal minority out of the equation, most people seem comfortable with sex in games so long as its inclusion is not obviously just there just for its own sake. Some don’t care even if it is, though most of those are likely to be under the age that is legally required to purchase the game. The average, mature gamer likes strong storylines and realistic layered characters, if this includes a bit of sex and sexuality then so be it.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Games Are Just Not For Kids

Interestingly after my article of a few days ago the Byron Review was mentioned in parliament this week. And I find it interesting that while evoking the name of the review the politicians involved still seemed to be taking the tone that the games industry is hard to deal with and in some way irresponsible. This was not actually stated but to me it was the clear implication.

The discussion was kicked off by home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz who, according to the Scottish Herald asked the following of commons leader Harriet Harman “Given the fact that there is increasing availability of these games on the internet, exhibiting scenes of graphic and gratuitous violence, when is the Government proposing to implement the Byron report in full.”
It is not actually this portion of the question I have a problem with it is the way the journalist paraphrased Ms Harman’s answer “She told Labour home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz that the video industry itself had a role to play and vowed to take action on all these fronts”. As a former English teacher I feel qualified to say that the use of a strong word like ‘vowed’ implies that the games industry is doing the wrong thing and needs to be taken firmly in hand. This was not the finding of the Byron Review at all, in fact the opposite was true. Professor Byron made it quite clear that the large majority of those in the games industry were responsive and helpful and keen to work with the government on this issue. I am not sure if this was Ms Harman’s emphasis or the journalist’s but it was entirely misplaced.

Another thing that annoyed me about this was Mr Vaz statement that “This isn’t about censorship, this is about protecting our children.” Unfortunately Mr Vaz these two things are not mutually exclusive. History has taught us that once people think they are pursuing the worthy cause of protecting their children they begin to think anything is justified.

The rest of Ms Harman’s answer was more in fitting with the findings of the Review

“We need to make sure we have tough classification, which are properly enforced. We need to make sure that parents have the information they need.”

Yes exactly, parent education and a clear sign on the front of the game that states that the contents are not for children, so that the rest of us can get on with our gaming in peace. I do hope that that is what Mr Vaz was suggesting.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Sex in games, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Boy Shoots Parents Because They Won’t Let Him Play Halo 3- Daniel Petric

Wow this is an extreme story. I am currently writing an article on it for a magazine and another for a website so I thought I would share my thoughts with you on here. It will help me to organise them.

Firstly, the story itself for those of you that are unfamiliar. Daniel Petric was raised in a religious family in Ohio. His father was a religious minister and by all accounts pretty careful ( some may even say a bit over cautious) about the kinds of entertainment his children were exposed to.

Daniel was involved in accident the year he turned 16 and was confined to the house for months on end, during this period he apparently played a lot of games and watched a lot of TV, as you would, no surprise there.

The trouble started when Daniel’s father, Mark, decided that the Halo series of games that Daniel was particularly fond of was too sexually graphic and took it and hid it in his lockbox with his own handgun. Daniel apparently knew where the key was and retrieved the game and the gun. He took the gun into the room his parents were sitting in and told them, chillingly, to close their eyes because he had a surprise for them, then he shot them both. His mother was killed and his father suffered a severe head injury. There is something even more heartbreaking about the way Mark Petric testified that he closed his eyes expecting a nice surprise from his son only to feel his head go numb from the bullet Daniel had shot at his head.

Daniel was recently convicted of this crime after the court rejected his plea of insanity. He is to be sentenced at a later date.

The blame game is, of course raging full steam ahead on this one. A lot blame the video game industry and there are none of us dropping
dead of shock over that. The judge really did not help with his comments.

“In the game you shoot aliens, and they are there again the next day. You have to shoot them again, and I firmly believe that Daniel Petric had no idea that if he killed his parents they would be dead forever”

I am not pointing my finger at the judge, a case like this has got to put you under immense strain, but neither can I accept his comments.
It would suggest that a sixteen year old boy who two experts had already ascertained was not suffering from a mental defect or disease did not understand the concept of death. That just beggars belief, I don’t care how many hours of Halo he had played. What, had he never had a pet cat, dog, bird die? Not had an auntie, uncle or grandparent pass away. Nope, sorry not having that. Anyway, it occurs to me that if Daniel Petric thought his parents were just going to spring to life again then he had no motive for what he did, it was not going to get him any closer to being able to play Halo 3.

The gamers focus more on the humans involved and seem to predominately make two sorts of comments. Some make comment on Mark’s parenting skills, I think we have to tread very carefully here to avoid tipping over into blaming the victim but some people put forward ideas of a repressive regime in the home. Halo 3 is after all an M rated game and Daniel was 16. Not that anyone is suggesting that this one piece of discipline was a reason for murder.

Others, of course, blame Daniel himself and it would be easy to say that this is clearly where the real blame lies but I can’t help thinking that even though Daniel may not have been insane by criminal standards any boy who shoots his parents must have been in dire need of some sort of help.

Anyway, the most heartbreaking detail in a heartbreaking case is the fact the fact that Mark Petric looked at his son in court with forgiveness and told him “you are my son, my boy”. I am not sure how to comment on that except to say, for some reason, it nearly made me cry.


Digg!

January 21, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Sex in games, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My Freelance Writing Ethos.

When I first started this caper I used to look at all the profiles of writers who knew exactly what they could bring to a project with envy. People were chucking around terms like value added and I really did not have a clue. I certainly had nothing approaching an ethos or a mission statement but as I have gone through the process I think I have started to develop one. I am quite sure that it is not fully formed yet but if I was pushed for an ethos now I think it would go something like this

I produce quality products. I do not copy sections from the internet or re word other people’s articles . Inserting a bit of spark and personality is my specialty.I love to write and anything I produce will reflect my genuine love of language.

I strongly believe that top notch writing can add value to a website or product and help increase profit. I also believe that poor writing can harm the image an employer is trying to create and therefore cost them money. That is why I will strive to give them a product that is of exceptional quality every time.

I don’t think I came into this expecting to have to convince people of the power of words. I suppose as a former English teacher I should know better than anyone that not everyone appreciates how important language is. But somehow I expected that if someone was hiring a person to write for them then they would understand this truth. Some people seem to think that any words will do. The way these people totally underestimate the power of language still astonishes me.

This freelance writing thing has really focused me on the pleasure of earning a living from something you are passionate about and so far I declare this career change a success.


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January 20, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Getting published, Guru, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Small Victory For Me- Writing For Guru And Elance

It looks like there really might be something in this holding out for decent money and delivering quality. Yesterday I got this letter from someone I wrote for on Elance

Dear Michelle,

If it was possible, I would give you an eLance standing ovation. The article was exactly what I wanted. I decided to skim over the article late last night and all of a sudden my already exhausted eyes perked up and by the end of the article I was watching the trailer for World of Goo and looking where to play the demo. The only thing I need you to include is just your name at the end of the articles so my readers will know who to thank for such engaging articles. Keep up the excellent work.

If you think I am showing off, you may be right. It is just that I am a little proud of myself and my two Staffordshire Bull Terriers don’t seem to care. By the way I highly recommend the Indie game World Of Goo. A fabulous achievement by the little guys. Huge budget of $10 000 and second on the amazon best seller list at Christmas. Imagine the envy of the tens of millions of dollars game developers.

Anyway, getting back on track. Remember the people I politely declined for offering me a silly small amount of money for my writing (if not you need to read this post https://michellejbuss.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/silly-offers-for-your-writing-politely-declining-guru-employers/ Well, I’ll be darned if they did not get back to me this morning accepting my original offer. It just goes to show you sticking up for yourself not only feels good it can win you customers.

Of course my original bid was still pretty low because I need the experience in writing eBooks, and they need the whole sixty pages in a week, eek. I best get started, I will let you know how it goes.


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January 17, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Getting published, Guru, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Silly Offers For Your Writing-Politely Declining Guru Employers.

I have to admit that I am joining the ranks of the fans of Guru and Elance. I am well aware of their downsides but the bottom line is they facilitate a link between you and employers. What you negotiate from there is up to you. There is no doubt there are employers on there that think they are doing you a favour by offering to let you write and you should gratefully work for under minimum wage but no one makes you work for them. I now have $400 of continuing work a week through these two sites. Granted this is a recent development and I have not been paid but as this week’s money is held in escrow accounts I think I can be fairly confident.

I have one small job writing tiny blogs for a landlord. Another one that requires 3 articles on gaming a week and yet another that is currently a set 5 articles but looks like it shall continue beyond that. In each case I am being paid fairly. Two offered a fair price up front and one had to be given a gentle prod but all in all it is my ideal of fair pay for decent writing.

I think this has been bought about by my deciding and openly stating in my bids that I will not accept less. People still occasionally offer me silly money but I doggedly decline their offers and hold out for something better. It really is the only way. Just today I received a counter offer to my bid to write 60/100 page EBook, the gentleman wanted me to do it for $200! Apparently the hook is there may be more in the future, at that price I could not afford to do any more for him. Anyway, he received one of my thanks but no thanks letters. In each letter I try to set out how long a quality job would take and then put it into pay per hour for them. I am not being patronizing, I really think some of them just don’t realize what they are asking. Unless they actually write themselves this is understandable. I include a mock up of the type of letter I send to politely decline an unrealistic offer.

Sixty pages of well written, researched copy would take at least forty five hours including proof reading and editing. Anyone who tells you different is not intending on giving you quality. This works out at less than five dollars an hour. I usually work at a very low minimum of ten to fifteen and had only gone below that because your project sounded interesting. I literally cannot afford to work for you at that price and must admit my astonishment that anyone can. They must have much lower house payments than me.

So I politely decline your offer.

I recognize that we all do what we need to do and I wish you all the best.

I will admit to a small sense of satisfaction when I press the send button.


Digg!

January 14, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Guru | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Seriously Bad SEO Writing- Funny Examples Competition

My post yesterday got me to thinking about all the examples of truly bad SEO writing I have seen in my time. Some of it is really very amusing. Either because the writer has completely lost control of what they are writing (overuse of thesaurus or just lack of grasp of the language.) Or, just occasionally, because you can see the bored to tears SEO writer behind the copy deciding to have a laugh.

There have always been examples of bad writing my personal favorite example currently is an opening paragraph that was recognized as one of the worst of 2006.

Her angry accusations burned Clyde like that first bite of a double cheese pizza, when the toppings slide off and sear that small elevation of the oral mucosa, just behind the front teeth, known as the incisive papilla, which is linked to the discriminatory function of the taste buds except, where Clyde was concerned, when it came to women.

I had to find a way to include that because it really mad me laugh. If you interested in some other creative writing train wrecks check this out http://www.ieplexusblog.com/featured/90-great-design-wont-mask-bad-writing/

Back on my original topic though, once I started to actually look for funny, bad SEO examples I found it quite time consuming and being so impatient I decided to kick off with the first two I came across.

Firstly, in the category of: Is There Actually Any Meaning Left In That Sentence?

Because the desire for a bigger penis is both a carelessness and a beginning of care for many men, the penis enhancement ‘store’ has flourished.

What? I apologize for using such an obvious topic but I just had a feeling it might throw up some examples.

Secondly, and my personal favorite category That Writer Is Having A Laugh: I Wonder If Anyone Will Notice.

(Before you read this you need to know the title of the article was The Three Products Most Likely To Be Top Sellers for Your Internet Business)

Hair loss products. No man likes to lose his hair, forget the old adage that baldness is a sign of virility. That phrase was coined by a bald man. The desperation men feel at losing their hair resulted in the invention of the comb over. If men were willing to believe that looked better than going bald then they will buy just about anything.

Classic. The, your customers are dumb and desperate sales pitch.

My idea is this. Let’s find the best examples of truly bad SEO writing and post them here. It will be good for a laugh if nothing else. If I start getting in some replies I will write up the best ones once a month or so and create a new page for them.

I may not get enough traffic for this kind of idea but if not I will continue to post any funny examples I come across.

Please be aware that I am not having a go at underpaid and over worked SEO writers, I feel their pain, just at the system as it currently is.


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January 6, 2009 Posted by | Diggit, Elance, Gaming, Guru, SEO writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Video Games to Blame For the End of The World (Blame Games Part Two)

I enjoyed writing about some of the crazy things people have said about video games so much I decided not to stop at one blog. 

1.The New Zealand Herald reported three Auckland teens were killed in a vehicle crash while attempting to outrun police in a high speed pursuit.

National’s transport spokesman Maurice Williamson says today’s young people think they are bullet-proof. He blames Playstations and X-boxes for making teens think they can drive stupidly and just push the reset button if anything goes wrong.

 I am pretty sure teenagers have behaved recklessly since the beginning of time. I remember pulling some stunts with cars that now, quite frankly, make my hair stand on end to think about and I have never been interested in racing games. I wonder if there has been an increase in teenagers leaping from tall buildings because if they die when they hit the bottom the can press the reset  button?

2.LONDON (AFP) — West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green has blamed the increasing popularity of video games among English boys for the country’s failure to reach the finals of the Euro 2008 football championships.But Green cited an economic cause as a reason for England’s failure.”We would have the best team if we could go into every household and throw away every PlayStation, Xbox and video game.

I read the whole article and I still could not work out what his reasoning for this was, but I think it is my favorite so far. Video games are to blame for English failure at sport. Beautiful. I presume this is because they are banned in countries where sporting success is more common place?

3.  In this week’s edition of the magazine, Adler reported on a new study showing our time in outdoors recreation is declining. He summarized: “So along with obesity and attention-deficit disorder, you can now, if you choose, blame videogames for the greenhouse effect.” 

I have a feeling that this may have been slightly tongue in cheek but still it does suggest that the only or main reason people stay inside is because of video games, I bet the TV industry is so glad games were invented to take the heat off them. Also, I included it because it shows video game bashing has reached its final conclusion, they are now to blame for the literal end of the world. My job here is done.

December 26, 2008 Posted by | Gaming | | Leave a comment

Video Games Are the Root of All Evil

I am presently writing a commissioned article on a recent report on the effects of video games on children. The report itself is very balanced and sensible and,dare I say it, quite pro games and the gaming industry. But in the course of my research I have come to realise that people try to blame video games for some amazing things. So I decided to make a top five list of the contentious things people say about video games and the video game culture.

1.”These are real lives. These are real people that are in the ground now because of this game. I have no doubt about it,” said Thompson, a Florida attorney and fervent critic the of video game industry.

To be fair this could have just been a list of the top five contentious things this guy has said in his campaign against everything to do with video games. This particular gem was in the wake of the Virginia tech shootings after some of the perpetrators’ friends suggested he may have played a bit of Counter Strike when he was younger, that was about as strong as the link to video games got. When his room was searched he did not even have a copy of the game or a single console. The comment is not that surprising coming from a guy who calls gamers knuckleheads and says playing games is ‘mental masturbation’.

2.ENO, Nev. (AP) — A couple authorities say were so obsessed with the Internet and video games that they left their babies starving and suffering other health problems have pleaded guilty to child neglect.“They had food; they just chose not to give it to their kids because they were too busy playing video games,” Viloria told the Reno Gazette-Journal.Police said hospital staff had to shave the head of the girl because her hair was matted with cat urine. The 10-pound girl also had a mouth infection, dry skin and severe dehydration.Her brother had to be treated for starvation and a genital infection. His lack of muscle development caused him difficulty in walking, investigators said.

I have no doubt that had there been no video games in the world these people would have been model parents! Video games are apparently so addictive that they can over-ride the strength of the bond between parent and child. Sure. Is it not more likely these people were defective units in the first place?

3.Children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them,” the senator and former first lady Hilary Clinton, said.

No ,Hilary, it is really not. It is encouraging them to to have pretend sex, with pretend prostitutes and then pretend to murder them. It is not real, honestly. Anyway, these kinds of games are not directed at children, where are their parents?

4.McDonald’s boss: ‘Games to blame for childhood obesity’

Yes, Mr Easterbrook and your fat laden food, aggressive marketing to children and encouragement of people to ‘have fries with that’ has absolutely nothing to do with it.

5. An interesting study confirming an effect I’ve experienced many a time: After playing a driving-based video game, 27 percent of drivers (ages 16 to 24) found that they were more likely to speed or take risks when behind the wheel. 

Oh come on! Now games are to blame for an increase in crap driving.

Oh well, one thing I will say for anti video game pundits, they have kept my research for this article interesting.

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Gaming, Writing | , , , , | 1 Comment

History of Sex In Video Games

I received an email the other day from the editor of one of the gaming magazines I write for with a proposal for a new article. Could you do me, 2000 words on the history of sex in video games, please? A general piece on the ways it has been used, when it has been part of a legitimate storyline and when it is clearly just frap material for teenage boys. Mmmm, ok, sounds interesting, I have never heard of the word frap but I get the general idea. So I start to research it and all I can say is: who knew? There is a plethora of information out there on this topic and it really is highly interesting stuff. The way people’s minds work!

Hot Coffee (the incident that caused a huge scandal when game designers accidently left a hidden scene in GTA: San Andreas where the player could control the thrusting of the character as he had sex), Leisure Suit Larry ( the whole point of the game is to pursue lovely ladies and score to score, but big points loss for not using a condom) and usb devices that fit over the penis to provide stimulation, it is a wide, wide world out there. The magazine I write for is generally of the good, clean fun variety so I will have to tread carefully. I may leave out the bit about the usb device. And coverage in anything but the vaguest terms of the second life like sex game Sociolotron, may also be going too far.

I can see this is going to need a lot more research though, and blogging.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | Gaming, Sex in games | , , , , , | Leave a comment