Op-Ed

Op-Ed
This Week in Gaming History

Nova Barlow | 17 Nov 2008 14:00
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It wouldn't be much of a surprise to find out that Grand Theft Auto was once again the epicenter of controversy, but like most celebrities, Rockstar's popular series just can't stay away from the headlines. This week we'll take a look at its run-in with Boston city officials in 2006, peek at some hardware releases the week of November 16 through November 22 in gaming history, get nostalgic over a few classic games, and take time out to wish a happy birthday to a rather influential videogame designer.

Starting the week off right, we would like to take a few lines of space to wish a belated "happy birthday" (it was yesterday, November 16) to Shigeru Miyamoto. From the early days of Mario to the sparkling new Wii Music, the influential designer has continued to bring many innovative concepts to gamers world wide during his long career with Nintendo. May there be many more years of great gaming to come!

Returning to last week's hinted controversy, on November 21, 2006, the Boston Globe reported that 60 local community leaders and elected officials (including the mayor) signed a letter demanding ads for Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories be removed from subway cars. Initial reply from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) was swift, as it appeared the four-week campaign would be allowed to run its course, much to the chagrin of protesters. "As offensive as anyone may find the product being advertised, it's not the MBTA's role to regulate any products, whether they are movies, music, websites, books, or videogames."

On the 22nd, the Boston Transit Authority vehemently disagreed with MBTA's position as Hub Patrolman's Association President Thomas Nee commented, "These games threaten and risk the lives of police officers. To use a public conveyance in our city to sell a product that condones murdering police officers is complete lunacy."

Citing "contractual obligations" and the First Amendment, the ads remained in Boston. MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas indicated a few weeks later the transit system would no longer accept ads for videogames the industry deemed unsuitable for children under the age of 17.

TriMet in Portland pulled the ads swiftly after ridership complained about similar ads, losing approximately $71,000 in the process. Advertising over the Grand Theft Auto series has also sparked discussions in Denver and Chicago as recently as last spring with mixed results.

As Microsoft put the original Xbox to rest, Sony launched the PlayStation 3 on November 17, 2006. While the PlayStation 3 beat the Wii to market this week by mere inches (two days), the Wii continues to trounce the system in the marketplace by miles. Current console wars second-place holder Microsoft kicked off this generation of hardware with the debut of the Xbox 360 this week in 2005. The 360 also set in place the not-so pleasant holiday tradition of initial supply shortages for the Wii and PS3 to inadvertently follow in the years to come.

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This week has seen its fair share of action in portable gaming hardware, too. In 2002, Japanese handheld gaming aficionados celebrated the release of the Bandai Swan Crystal, a system that did not make it outside the Japanese market. In 2004, the Nintendo DS arrived in North America, beating the PlayStation Portable to market by several months.

As we head towards the holidays, time often slows down a bit to let us take a break from the bonanza of graphic goodness that current titles provide and catch up to those old, classic games we love. With that spirit in mind, this week we'd like to remind our readers of Infocom text treats Witness (Release 20, 1983), Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Solid Gold Edition, 1987), and the final release of A Mind Forever Voyaging (Release 79, 1985).

Next week we'll most likely mention the anniversary of World of Warcraft, but if you're burnt out on hearing about it due to the recent release of Wrath of the Lich King, we can assure you that you'll read about other cool goodies, too.

Researcher Nova Barlow is currently in search of the epicenter of cool. She doesn't believe she'll get entirely all the way there on public transit, though.

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