The man who put the ping in our Pong

November 10, 2007

FROM JASON’S GAPING MAW OF ADMIRATION — It seems crazy, but people who study the Earth’s ancient past — historiticians, we call them — have discovered that once upon a time there were no vidjagames.

It was a dark and unenlightened time. We can only tell from fossil remains how primitive Man survived with flint and twigs, herding the wild mammoths and fending off sabre-toothed tigers. Yes, the 1960s were a dangerous era, and pastologists continue to puzzle out how Cro-Nixon man weathered Nature’s harsh kill-or-be-killed contest.

Then Ralph Baer emerged to give his tribe the greatest invention since fire: Pong.

This documentary shows Baer’s story: How a veteran dreamed of using vacuum tubes and laughable “micro”chips to make the world’s simplest electronic game in 1972.


Step 1: Insert quarter.

Step 2: Ball will serve automatically.

Step 3: Avoid missing ball for high score.


Cthulu rip-off boss defeated. Now what?

November 10, 2007


FROM JASON’S WALLET — Got the boomerang. It was probably the coolest DS stylus mechanic ever.

Then came the grappling hook. Even the mighty boomerang was outclassed.

Sailed all four sea maps. Visited and cleared all the islands. Got all the ship parts worth the time. Fishing was fun. Defeated the stupid bosses. Ghost ship schmost… uh, schmip. Zelda was fun from start to finish. But that’s where the fun ended.

There is no post-game content and absolutely no replay value to The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. There are no puzzles worth going back to solve. Baddies throughout the maps have become trivial to beat.

The one thing that I would like to fight again — the Ancient Stone Soldier — can’t be revisited. Having the hammer/mallet is almost a worthless end-game bonus.

The one (barely worthwhile) thing left is multiplayer, which isn’t saying much. After playing through Oshus’ temple so many times throughout the course of the main game, I have little desire to go back and endlessly repeat the same avoid-the-Noid-type gameplay on the WFC.

Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t Zelda take a queue from Pokemon, which added another 10-12 hours of gameplay and collecting after the “end” of the game? Or from Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, which gave me a new player and different, more arcade-ish skills to hone on Julius Mode?

So even though it is one of the games I have overall most enjoyed playing this year, it looks as though I will be toting Phantom Hourglass in to GameStop. According to their web site, they’re willing to give me $17 for it.

Maybe I’ll get rid of Elite Beat Agents at the same time, now that the songs are staler than a trip to Merkay Island.

For 8 cents a day, you can feed this starving child

November 10, 2007

FROM JASON’S DESK OF RAGE — How dare these mongrels demand payment for rendering a product that produces millions of dollars?

I was a big fan of NBC for about a week. There was a glorious but brief period last month when the network was providing its shows online in relatively high resolution; the video player was proprietary and a bit laggy, depending on bandwidth load, but overall I could watch my episodes of Chuck and The Office with little trouble.

“Hey,” I said to myself. “Self — it looks like they’re finally catching on. They’ve figured out how to appease the Intarweb gods and offer content online!”

Then came the ads… or the promotions-in-the-promotions, if Tobey and Kelley are to be believed (see video above).

I love NBC. As a matter of fact, the majority of shows — by far! — that I watch are on the Peacock Network. But some knuckleheads in the advertising department let me down.

They tried sticking ads into the full-episode stream. There is no way to skip the ads. They cut randomly (not at regular ad breaks) into the action. They are clunky, and half the time freeze the video irreparably.

Moreover, there is no way I’m going to rush out to buy the lamerz products they’re pushing: Retirement funds? Really? That’s what you’re trying to sell on the Web? Kmart Blue Light Specials and Martha Stewart products?

Who are these befuddled ad executives?

The kicker: Whatever money they are beating out of these clueless advertisers isn’t going to the show’s writers.

That’s write (pun, sorry). The people who made the show aren’t getting paid when it airs on the web, even though it’s making money for the producers. All the Writers Guild of America wants is 8 cents — a 4-cent increase — on royalties from Internet and DVD sales.

Give it to them, or god help me I won’t buy any more TV on DVD.

Logical fallacy of the day: Non causa pro causa

November 10, 2007

FROM JASON’S PILE O’ANNOYANCE — “We spent $23 million on an effort to control gun crime, and we’ve seen shooting deaths decrease by three percent this year,” says a local politician.

The problem is that there are no concrete facts tying the drop in violence to the crime-control program. There’s a fundamental disconnect between what did happen and what the people in charge want me to think happened.


What if there were fewer fatal shootings because it was colder than normal, and criminals didn’t want to go outside? What if there were far more (criminal) gun-related injuries — which was the case where I live — but fewer deaths?

What if there were fewer gang shootings because the criminals became more organized? That’s certainly not an indication that the $23 million program worked.

This rant isn’t about gun crime, though. It’s about how politicians (and other stupid or dishonest people) use two types of fallacies: cum hoc ergo propter hoc and post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Both are Latin, and are subsets of the non causa pro causa fallacy — which as you could guess from the similarity to our word “cause” means roughly, “Dude, you totally haven’t shown me there’s a link between these two things.”

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc, or “they happened at the same time, so they’re linked,” is used in all kinds of fun but fallacious forum arguments. I know I’m guilty of doing this, too.

“iTunes is doing good business and CDs are failing, so online sales are killing CD sales.” I don’t have any solid facts to tie the two together. It’s just an assumption.

Here’s one that Jack Thompson would like ignorant, easily-swayed alarmists to believe:”Vidjagames are getting more violent and there are more school shootings, so kids playing the vidjagames are being trained to be more violent.”

(Editorial aside: If you don’t know what the vidjagames are, how did you get on my Internets? I suggest you seek counseling from the Fast Karate For the Gentleman podcast.)

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, or “this one thing happened and this other thing was the result” can be tricky. Sometimes something is the cause of an effect. The problem is when we forget to do due diligence and tie them together.

The textbook example: “I didn’t use deoderant, and it rained. Therefore, every time I don’t use deoderant, it will rain.”

The geek example: Well, we geeks are too smart for that, aren’t we? Science be praised.