If you read last week's Editors Note, you know that The Escapist is restructuring its issue format. Rather than packaging a few specific features together each week, we'll be considering all of our content offerings as part of each week's issue. That means news, reviews, videos, regular columns and webcomics will all join the feature articles as important parts of each weekly issue. To help kick off this transition, we're offering a quick look at the types of content we produce each week.
Since it was first introduced over five years ago, our news has become one of the site's most popular offerings. From timely analysis of the constant evolution of the videogame industry to an enthusiastic exploration of numerous other topics relevant to the gamer lifestyle, our team of talented news writers not only provides you with the who, what, why, where and when of each story, but also gives you important context to help you better understand the significance of each individual news item.
Here's a sampling of some of our hottest news stories from 2011.
The ECA and the EMA were instrumental in arguing in favor of the videogame industry, and they are predictably extremely happy with the decision. "We are thrilled by today's news," said Jennifer Mercurio, who was present at the oral arguments in November. "We had hoped that we would see this decision, and it's been a long time coming. That being said, there will probably be one or two legislators who attempt to test these new parameters, and the ECA will continue to fight for the rights of entertainment consumers."
The announcement is a major victory for the videogame industry. For years, games have been treated like scapegoats for the ills of our nation's youth, and blamed for everything from school shootings to child obesity. The law proposed by California representative Leland Yee was part of that blame because it claimed that games were more harmful than books or movies and did not deserve the protection of the First Amendment.
Ah, the time-honored tradition of every convention where there is a critical mass of geeks and nerds - the fantastic cosplay. I'm not positive what the motivation is for these folks who dedicate such time and ingenuity to crafting a likeness of their favorite character in videogames, movies, TV shows or comics. Is it the necessary attention to detail? Is it the attention that wearing these costumes gets them on the convention floor? Perhaps these uber-fans just want to feel like it's Halloween all year long.
Whatever the reason, PAX East 2011 might not have had huge numbers of cosplayers like SD Comic Con or even Gen Con did this past year, but it more than made for it in quality. Some of what I saw must have taken weeks if not months of planning and execution.
For those not familiar with the NEA, it is a US government organization-slash-program which funds artistic projects around the country which will "enhance the public good." If you're an artist who wants to make a beautiful sculpture for a public place, for instance, and you don't want to sell it commercially - but you would like to continue eating - you can apply for a grant of up to $200,000 to make your work of art. There are all sorts of regulations and scrutiny in the application process, but that's the basic idea, anyway.
The NEA opened its application doors this week for 2012, and announced that it would be changing its criteria for what counted as art. Most significantly for our chosen pastime is that the category formerly known as The Arts on Radio and Television will now be known as The Arts in Media. It will include film, television and radio artistic projects, but will also add satellite-based and internet-based media (as opposed to just landline-based broadcasts) and, you guessed it, interactive media
I don't need to tell you that the entire concept of School Shooter: North American Tour 2012 is horrible. While many of us might indulge in a little murder while playing shooters - civilians in a Russian airport or townsfolk in Red Dead Redemption - a whole game based on killing children, teachers and janitors in a school crosses all kinds of lines that it's impossible to argue in its favor. School shootings like Columbine are a national tragedy because it underlines fundamental problems in our society, while mistakenly pointing to media like movies and games as the cause. Pawnstick's mod, while being disgusting in its own right, will do nothing but give ammunition to anti-game activists, joining the ranks of Postal 2 and Manhunt as examples of gaming's moral depravity. Instead of pushing the game industry forward into new and fantastic ways of telling stories, School Shooter: North American Tour 2012 is a huge step back into gaming's flawed adolescence.
Rather than pricing a product based purely on what that product is worth, [Gabe] Newell talks about pricing a product based on what the customer is worth as well. "Some people, when they join a server, a ton of people will run with them," Newell continued. "Other people, when they join a server, will cause others to leave."
"So, in practice, a really likable person in our community should get DotA 2 for free, because of past behavior in Team Fortress 2," Newell added. "Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone, they can still play, but a game is full price and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice."
Newell also went over how Valve is already charging high-value customers "negative" amounts, such as those that were paid royalties for creating Team Fortress 2 items. "Their cost for Team Fortress 2 is negative $20,000 per week," he said. "You're never going to see that in a retail store ... It's people who make hats get paid. People who are really popular play for less, or free."
"Sony doesn't care if what you did was legal, if they don't like it, they sue. Sony tried to sue a guy for getting his AIBO to do non Sony approved tricks, making it apparent that they don't really care about piracy, they care about control," wrote Geohot on his website. "I would hate to lose this case due to resource starvation, and with the support of the masses, I won't. Lets turn the bully back on itself."
For his part, Geohot reiterated that he is against piracy and distributing copyrighted work, but he believes that it is his right to hack any consumer product once it is in his legal possession. "Sony does not even try to allege piracy or copyright infringement in this case, they allege I did things like play "Super Mario World, an unauthorized game" on myPS3. And access my PS3 in an unauthorized way. Who are they to authorize what I do with my taxed and paid for property?" he asked rhetorically.
"For example, I believe Apple has every right to lock down their iPhone in the factory as much as they want, but once it's paid for and mine, I have the right to unlock it, smash it, jailbreak it, look at it, and hack on it." Geohot is, of course, referring to his previous exploits in jailbreaking the iPhone.
Back in 2005, Blizzard decided to go back to the drawing board on Diablo III and scrapped much of what it had under development. What you might not know is that the studio already had a capable version up and running. Newly discovered screenshots show off what it looked like, and how different it is from what we know of Diablo III today.
Kotaku writes that Blizzard had planned Diablo III as a battle through hell, as expected, but also heaven. Some of the screenshots show areas called "Heaven" and the "Angelic Lands." In these areas, the player faces snakes, snake-men, and gritty winged creatures.
The concept is one of those Stephen Hawking space-time things that's so completely stupid it loops back into itself and becomes sheer genius: Zombies - shambling, bungie-jumping, Zamboni-driving zombies - want to get into your house and eat your brains, and the only thing preventing it are the be-bopping, unusually violent plants in your garden. It transcends silly and it works beautifully, and now it looks like more is on the way.
PopCap recently sent out a message inviting journalists to an event of some sort on San Francisco on August 2. But this wasn't a typical RSVP; instead, it was an image of the PvZ zombie hand bursting out of the ground, holding a note with the date and the initials "S.F." under a scrawled drawing of a big bridge.
Beyond the obvious Plants vs. Zombies link, there is no indication of what will actually be unveiled. Speculation that it might be news about the promised Xbox 360 version of the game has been kicking around, but I think it's safe to say that most fingers are crossed in hopes of a full sequel. Stay tuned!
If you're reading this, then you're almost certainly aware that over the past week, Sony's PlayStation Network has been suffering some rather severe technical difficulties. Sony is apparently still trying to figure out what's going on, or at the very least isn't yet ready to disclose all the facts, and there's still no ETA for a resumption of services. But in a new status update, Sony revealed that PlayStation Network and Qriocity user data has in fact been compromised. And not just your PSN ID.
"Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID," Sony's Patrick Seybold wrote in a message being sent to all registered PSN account holders. "It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained."
Some citizens of the former Soviet Union make money by digging for unused copper cables and selling them as scrap. A 75-year-old woman from Georgia was doing just that when she accidentally hit and damaged a fiber-optic cable, cutting off internet access for millions of people in three different countries.
The Guardian reports that the woman did the deed with a simple spade shovel. Georgia provides 90% of neighboring Armenia's internet, so her mistake left 3.2 million citizens of the country without internet access. In addition, areas of Georgia and Azerbaijan were also taken offline.
A system monitoring damage notified authorities who arrived shortly after the woman hit the cable. They arrested her on suspicion of damaging property, but she was temporarily released for "old age." She could face up to three years in prison.