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Mailbag
December 9, 1998 -- Previous Mailbag

All for WON and WON for all

From: Mike Bonilla

I would like to be the first gamer to applaud Valve on what they have done with Half-Life multiplayer. It seems that everyone wants to complain about how they use WON and the CD key authentication but I believe that these are both great additions. By using WON for the first time ever it is easy for a beginning gamer to play a mulitplayer FPS online. All the first timer has to do is click a couple times and he will be in a game. He/she (can't be gender bias) doesn't even have to know what a ping is all they have to do is look at the little green dots. Another great feature of WON is they way they distribute mods and maps. Before if the beginning gamer wanted to install a player model he would have to go through all kinds of crap, but now it is so easy with the .exe files they are releasing. I think what Valve has done is great and will only be the future model of other FPS to come.

Sound Advice

From: Lemur

I have just gotta chime in over this one:

>My nephew bugged me for years to let him play these games, and for years I refused. Now that he's 12 years old, I have let him have Duke and Jedi Knight, but he still isn't allowed anywhere near Quake 2, Shogo, or other more realistically and explicitly gory games.

Wait a sec.... Duke--a.k.a. Exploding-Stripper-O-Rama--is okay, but Quake 2 and Shogo aren't? There's worse things in the world than gibs, buddy. But then, I let my seven-year-old cousin play anything he pleases. Resident Evil 2 freaked him out, but there's nothing he likes better than starting up Quake 1, jumping into the lava, and just listening to his hapless space marine scream.

On the general subject of "disturbing" violence in videogames, all I can say it that if you folks feel ill from watching Quake 2's blocky, pixelated, cartoonish POWs, you've really got to get yourself desensitized more. I suggest renting Reservoir Dogs, maybe Natural Born Killers, and viewing them repeatedly.

Wolf Blitzer goes to Stroggos

From: Wurzle

When you were a child did you ever play cowboys & Indians? How about cops & robbers? Or any other of the numerous games played by running around the schoolyard, shooting each other with fake guns. These games aren't a new thing and certainly predate the existence of videogames. Violence in play is a part of human nature that has been around for ever, and in my opinion, video games are simply a different way of expressing this. Maybe the "play violence" found in games rather than desensitizing us to violence in the real world makes us more aware of our animal aggressions and therefor more able to control them in a positive manner. Personally, the images of violence which I find infinitely more disturbing are the ones found in the media which is delivered to my doorstep and into my livingroom in the airwaves every day. Reporters seem to be even more bloodthirsty than the stroggs.

Our boys...

From: Ryan "Joltox" Greene

I found myself unemployed earlier this year, so I spent some quality time with my computer. I loaded up Q2, and was rapidly becoming bored with it. level after level, repetition of find the key, shoot the monster, and boredom set in. Then I got to the jail level. Here were my friends, my buddies, my fellow troops. They were insane, begging for an end to their suffering, some just slumped lifeless in a corner, others crawling around, muttering to themselves.

They were shell shocked. PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] victims. That pissed me off. That gave me the incentive to finish playing the game. Every time I wanted to quit, so give up and move on, I remembered the troops in that jail.

And I killed every last Strogg I came across after that.

For me, this served as an incentive, for others, I suppose it was a turn off. Ah well...

Just a bunch of hard-wired mutant monkeys

From: Nathan

I would just like to say that those who see a correlation between game/tv/music violence and real life violence need to re-think their position.

Violence is a part of human nature, being the fairly territorial primates that we are. Humans have an instinctive behavior pattern called fight or flight syndrome, where a threat will cause fight or flight based on extenuating circumstances. A lot of things can trigger this, from territorial/mating/property disputes to physical or verbal harassment. Humans aren't wired in a way that is conducive to unprovoked attacks excepting in cases where external motivation is strong enough to overcome violence inhibiting instinct.

Unfortunately, because of genetic mutation and an increasing number of lifestyle variables, humans are much more prone to prematurely come to a fight or flight situation. This is particularly evident in cases of 'road rage,' where drivers view the immediate area around their vehicle as personal space, and view encroaching vehicles as attackers/competitors.

One thing that people always overlook when linking games and movies to violence, is that while some values in games/music/movies may be imparted on the viewer, those don't override our hard wired behavior patterns. For example, little Timmy enjoys redneck rampage a lot. However, he won't go out and shoot someone who talks with a southern accent because he did it in the game, though he'll probably pick up a stereotype or two. The only exception to this would be if Timmy grew up in a household where disruptive behavior was common (young children emulate their parents through instinct, it's a survival mechanism).

If you find dramatized acts of violence disturbing, there are basically two possible scenarios. You were brought up by parents who were overprotective and were fairly sheltered as a child, or you have a difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy. The former isn't a big thing, but the latter can be a real problem. I love watching endless horror movies or playing a particularly gory game of quake or mortal kombat, but I find real gore completely sickening like any normal person.

Anyhow, I hope I've helped explain the dynamics of the situation a bit better. I think it's unfair to correlate increased crime and violence with increased media coverage. More likely the causes are overpopulation, more complicated lifestyle, increased competition for food/shelter/mates, etc.

Missing the meat

From: Anonymous

I don't know if this makes me a sick individual but I miss the gib from Quake. It had more of that "meat" look to it then the gib in Quake 2.

Just what we need - steaming gibs

From: David B. Chase

The notion that violence in computer games is desensitizing is absolute hogwash. Give me the address of the person who said that so I can beat him into a steaming pile of entrails

MrWizard speaks out

From: Tungsten

I am afraid to say it, Blue... but your high school chemistry did indeed fail you in the Magic Coffee experiment. (I'm going to try it this afternoon!)

A few corrections to your "experimental" in the OotB section this morning.

Adding sugar until no more would dissole gave you a saturated solution. Filtering the hot solution to remove any undissolved sugar and then allowing it to cool would result in a supersaturated solution. By definition a supersaturated solution contains more solute (the sugar) than the equilibrium between dissolved and undissolved allows.

I'll bet you could grow some mean sugar crystals (putting sugar in the raw to shame) if you let that bad boy sit around for a while (evaporation would further saturate the solution until eventually crystals of sugar began to form).

I was impressed with your objective experimentalism, though ;-) I look forward to more science in OotB! Perhaps a Science Friday feature...

More bright ideas

From: Tyrian

There's a brand of caffinated water out there called, Water Joe, I think.... Making some coffee with that ought to prove interesting... :)

WARNING: Do not try this at home

From: Jason Grundy

Dr. Pepper?  Bah!  Use JOLT!!!   ;)

Editor's note: What are you trying to do, kill us?

--MrCoffee

Does this mean I have to stop calling him "Huggy Blue"?

From: Tony Fabris

Of all the webmasters that I've seen that try to get web-votes, your plugs for the voting sites are the least intrusive.

There are different ends of the spectrum. On the one end you have, for lack of a better metaphor, "pushers" who literally trick you or force you into voting via Javascript or fake links. In the middle of the spectrum is the more common sort of "pimping", where the webmaster blatantly begs for votes and puts huge flashing links on the screen. You're at the other end of the spectrum: The quiet soft-sell plug. Your voting links are small, they are at the bottom of the news page, they are unintrusive, and they aren't even there every single day. In fact, the way you plug the voting site is probably the best possible way you could go about it. I can't think of any other good way to get votes.

Here's my take on the whole thing: You can either care about the ranking or not care about the ranking. How important is it to you?

If you think that the "Top 100" ranking is worth getting, then by all means continue to make occasional little plugs like you've been doing. It's the only way to get ranked at all.

If you think that plugging the voting site is in any way immoral, then simply forget about the voting altogether and don't worry about your ranking. Because if you don't plug, you don't get the votes.

Personally, I don't think the ranking is important. I visit web sites based on the information they offer me. If the information is useful and interesting (as Blue's News always is), then I visit the site. When I want to search the web for information, I don't look for popularity rankings-- I search for specific terms in webcrawlers. I bookmark and visit sites that give me the information I need, regardless of how they're ranked in someone else's popularity contest.

But whatever you do, don't listen to whiners who tell you that your plugs are bad. It's your website, you can put up whatever plugs you want. It's up to the users whether or not to follow your links. And its up to you whether or not to troll for votes.

With friends like these...

From: Anonymous

I would have to agree with the first individual who stated that you were pimping the Top 100 site. Sorry to make you feel bummed out but I always thought that it was kinda lame that you even have that link on your site. But advertising it and reminding people to vote for your site in your "Out Of the Blue" section makes things look a bit worse than pimping. I just never bothered to email you about it, but now that the subject has arisen I figured, why not?

Additionally, I enjoyed the site when there was no "Out of the Blue" section, or atleast when the "OotB" section was in its infancy. The "OotB" section, I believe, started as an editorial-type area where, we the webbers, could learn a bit about the goings on behind-the-scenes-stuff in the Blue Tower, not about your personal life.

However, it quickly began an area of self-indulgence for yourself, in my honest opinion. "I am going to the Dentist, (please feel sorry for me)", "it's my B-Day tomorrow (hint, hint, nudge nudge, wink, wink)". What would seem better would be posts that would explain, for example, that you are going away for the TG w/e and won't be able to post as frequently. That is not self-indulgent but purposeful as the readers will know not to expect frequent posts during that weekend.

Furthermore, by just posting a sentence like: "I'll continue to keep an eye on feedback about this burning issue if anyone provides it" you are surely kidding yourself. Of course people will provide feedback and of course they will give you (save myself) positive feedback. Fans are the people who visit your site so why wouldn't they give you positive feedback. You knew that before you posted that sentence and I believe that is why you posted it. You want your fans to reaffirm that you are a swell guy! So it seems like you are, once again, wallowing in your self-pity and indulging in yourself in the hopes of hearing your fans say something like "Ignore him Blue, you rock!," "guys like that are a-holes, Blue!, don't worry about it", etc.

Think about it, Heaslip. That is why you posted it didn't you?

Ps - I would prefer you respect my privacy and not post this in the MailBag. If you do, please post it anonymous. Thanks and I hope I haven't bummed you out more. Just trying to be honest and responding to the issue you brought up, my friend.