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.

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

Kid can Play Games If He Follow Geneva Convention- People Still Moan

I do not usually consider myself to be the type of person who has activist leanings, maybe it is age, maybe it is just that something I enjoy is threatened, I am not sure, but either way this whole censorship thing continues to really bug me. So I thought I would highlight and comment on a story I discovered this morning(cheers to lear over at Digg who bought it to my attention) that shows that other, imaginative solutions can be found to the banning of violent content in video games.

A Canadian couple were determined to give their 13 year old son some rules of engagement when he was playing on his Xbox and they were not the ones you might expect, like time limits and making sure he had done his chores (though I am sure they have those rules as well) they were the perfect rules of engagement for the game he was playing, the rules of the Geneva Convention. Evan Spencer was allowed to play the game with his mates as long as he showed an awareness of these rules and where possible, within the limited scope of the game, used them to direct his play.

How very sensible and imaginative. Mr Spencer admits “Part of it was that I wanted to discourage him from getting the game. I just thought, ‘Hey, he’ll never read the Geneva Conventions.’ ” An understandable assumption but having been a child who wanted to play a game I could have told him that a little thing like that was not going to stop him. Evan printed the convention, read it and passed a quiz from his father to demonstrate that he understood them. Then he was good to go. Mr Spencer adds “In a sense, I wanted to make him aware that there’s a lot more about World War Two than just pointing and shooting,”

Now to this point this story is all very feel good and a great way to start my Saturday morning, and then I read the comments section. Fair enough there where a lot of people praising the move but still there were nay sayers determined to stick the boot into video games and Mr Spencer. Some of them were quite mild, pointing out that there is not actually a lot of opportunity to use the Geneva Convention in these games. Well that may be true but don’t you think that it misses the point? Whether or not Evan actually gets much chance to use them in COD is kind of irrelevant here. Surely the fact that he has engaged with them and now has an understanding of them is the issue. All because of a game. Mr Spencer used it as an opportunity for self directed learning, fabulous. Teachers would jump at the chance.

Other comments took my breath away, especially the oft repeated contention that this was lazy parenting.

Bob F from T.O., Canada writes: Lazy Parenting 1.0… Nice job… Pretty much sounds like Mr Spencer needs a spine. Wonder if he will let his son start smoking pot as long as he doesn’t inhale?

For one thing that analogy is so flawed as to actually be nonsensical but it is the accusation of lazy parenting that really fries my brain. Please, someone explain to me how this is lazy? Mr Spencer and his wife have evaluated the game, sat down together and discussed the issues and come up with a parenting tactic that is both imaginative and thoughtful. I guess Bob F thinks uttering the one word “no” so his kids can go out and play these games behind his back is less lazy. Mind boggling.

But this story is such a positive one that I do not want to finish on that negative note so I will give the last word to the eminently sensible Mr Spencer “This is the 21st century and a part of the universe we live in now.”
Indeed they are and responsible parenting like this will hopefully reassure people that parents are up to the job of looking after their children in this area and let the rest of us get on with enjoying our games.

Thanks to Sarah Boesveld for the original story that was publish in the Canadian Globe and Mail.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | 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

Charge Me With Neglect! Elance Triumph

Well the bad news is I have been very remiss in keeping my blog entries up but the good news is that is because I have been run off my feet with decent (read no dodgy SEO) writing work. And without exception the work has come from Elance. So haven’t I come a long way from where I was?

I know I am probably sounding like an advert for this place by now and that was never my intention so lets have a look at the downsides of the Elance world. Their charges for bidding are just a bit silly. You pay nearly ten bucks a month for being a member of the site but for that you do not get unlimited bidding, only 20 a month. I have found that, this month at least, this has not been enough. I think most people starting out will experience the same problem. So you have to buy more ‘connects’ and already you have paid them twice.

They then charge you 8% of any fee you earn on the site. So this is the third time they have been paid. I am not sure how this goes if you are the provider but I figure they are charged somewhere so Elance is earning money four or five times on the pair of you. Genius! As a business it must work stunningly well for them and the thing is it is still popular. Why?

Well, for me the answer is that it works. Yes its charges are daft and annoying but it beats the crap out of having no work. I would rather have a nice juicy fee for them to take 8% of than nothing at all. Basically, like it or lump it, it is the sole reason I have not had to go supply teaching and have been able to sit the snow period out in the comfort of my own home, doing what I love. And making really rather decent money out of it.

I am starting to get a bit of work in through word of mouth and trust me I will not be crying about not having to pay Elance a big cut. But, bottom line, I would have had no word of mouth without them.

A quick summary of my recommendations for getting to this position. Do not work for crap money, in fact don’t even bid on those jobs, you cannot compete with those people coming from the countries with a much lower cost of living and you will just make yourself miserable. I no longer even look at $5 an article jobs (she says with what is probably supreme over confidence). Also, once you are slightly established only bid on jobs that are going to improve your current position i.e. they pay more or they are on something that you would enjoy writing about. I write an awful lot on video games now, which I love.

I may, in time, be in a position to move away from Elance but at the moment it is serving me very nicely. Oh and Guru? Probably works well for a lot of people but in the time period I have been using it there seems to more of the dross and less of the good stuff. May just be coincidence or could be something about the way it markets to or charges employers. If I notice a difference I will let you know.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Guru, SEO writing, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Quick SEO Laugh

As I am ridiculously busy on a huge project (as well as trying to keep my regular customers happy) I am going to have to resort to an earlier topic to put together a blog today. It is one that I promised to come back to though,so all is well. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was on the lookout for some funny SEO writing. This one really tickled me today because you can literally see the guy struggling as he tries to find enough words about this crap game to fulfill his brief.

The series has expanded since then with the addition of Pet Vet 3D Animal Hospital Down Under. The “Down Under” part of the title is the critical differentiator, in that it refers to Australia. Not satisfied to drive on the wrong side of the road and have their toilets flush in the wrong direction (save your emails – I know this is a myth, but hey, you try writing these things if you think it’s easy)

I wonder if his employer even noticed.

His opening where he is describing at great length his childhood dream of becoming a vet and the reading of lots of lovely books on the subject, in a desperate attempt to get the word count up also tickled me.

Well, I enjoyed the books immensely, as did millions of other readers. But to anyone interested in becoming a veterinarian, they may as well have been titled “Long Nights and Long, Dung-Covered Arms” or “Long Nights, Awake and Working.” Not for me, mate. Give me a nice warm office-based nine-to-five, please.

Fabulous. And if you are the author and you happen upon this blog I just want say I am not sure if you sold any of your employer’s games for them but if it is any consolation you brightened up my afternoon.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Confident Elance or Guru Pitch.

I was looking back over some of the templates I had created for these sites at the very beginning of all this and I was struck by how much they differed from the ones I send out now. In the early ones I was pathetic, I sounded like they would be doing me a favour throwing any ill paid rubbish my way. Here is an example

Thank you for the opportunity to submit my proposal for your project. Enclosed please find all information relative to my skills and experience.

I believe I could do an outstanding job of this project. I consider myself to be a very persuasive person who has an exceptional way with words. In my previous career as an English teacher I was often required to mock up advertising campaigns with a strong element of persuasion. Not to mention motivating the kids to complete the project which is perhaps the biggest challenge of all.

I gave up my teaching job to concentrate on my writing very recently, as a result I am eager and determined to produce a fantastic piece of work to satisfy your requirements.

Give me a go: you won’t regret it.

Please contact me on michellejbuss@googlemail.com to further discuss pricing and project details.

Regards Michelle Buss

How awful. And it elicited very few responses except the odd ” Do these really well for $1 each and I might have some more work for you” kind.

The type of proposal i send out now is much more confident. I know I can do the job well and expect fair pay for it. The bonus is that this is actually more professional and attracts a better quality of employer. If you come across as under confident you frighten the employer. Most of them are there because they don’t know how to do the job themselves, they are hardly likely to hire someone who comes across as if they haven’t got a clue either. Who can blame them? My bids now are more likely to sound something like this.

I was drawn to your advert because it sounds like you want quality articles, it seems to me a lot of employers are not the slightest bit interested in quality. It also sounds like a lot of fun and I gave up a fifteen year teaching career to write because I enjoy it so that is very important to me.

I write articles for an Australian gaming magazine. They are a journalistic endeavor as I decide each month what topics are hot in the industry and do the research and interviews to put the article together. They pay very well but there is not enough of this work to earn a full time living.

As I have great difficulty turning out rubbish low fee articles take me far too long to be worth the effort. Your project sounds just right for me. A chance to reflect the true quality of my writing for fair pay would be very much appreciated.

It is hard to give you a truly reflective price as you do not mention how much writing would be involved. I would be happy to discuss this with you.

Please visit my website at

https://michellejbuss.wordpress.com/

This will give you a feel for my style and writing ability. I have also attached an article I had published in a gaming magazine. I can provide the contact details of the editor who will be more than happy to provide me with a reference.

I look forward to working with you on this.

That is slightly generic and clearly i respond to each project on an individual level so I would add the following;

– A few sentences on why I am the best person for their particular brief.
– If possible a pertinent question to show my understanding of the type of project they are asking for.

This has worked loads better and jobs do come to me quite regularly. An up date of my profile to include my new improved writing ethos has also started bring employers to me. So, at the risk of repeating myself my number one tip is to be confident, it is vital.

On another note if you found your way here looking for a view on these sites from a web designers point of view the following site is worth a visit
http://rubiqube.com/elance-tips-top-5-projects-you-should-run-away-from/


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January 21, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.


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