Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday afternoon tidbits

Just a few leftovers before I embark upon a weekend full of exciting activities, like drinking beer and falling asleep on the couch:

-I'll take full credit for this: The Boston Phoenix cleaned up at the New England Press Association awards. The paper won the association's top prize, the George A. Speers Newspaper of the Year Award. In addition to almost two dozen individual awards, the Phoenix also nabbed first place nods for General Excellence in the Alternative Weekly category, and for Arts and Entertainment Section, alternative class, for the September 29, 2006 issue. I think it was my Yakuza review that put us over the top.

-In the Brainy Gamer podcast, we touched upon the commercial prospects of No More Heroes domestically. Kotaku has the numbers, and the verdict is: it's doing okay. I don't know what the benchmarks are to call something a success or a failure, sales-wise, but 200,000 units shipped and over 100,000 sold in the first month sounds pretty good to me. Much better than under 40,000 shipped in Japan, even accounting for the population difference. Crazy.

-N'Gai Croal is in the midst of an epic multi-part series called "Is the Cultural Trajectory of Videogames Doomed to Parallel That of Comic Books?" As usual, it seems silly to even attempt to piggyback upon the man's wisdom, so I'd only suggest that you waste no time in reading it.

Okay, maybe I'll toss in one observation. N'Gai quotes Steve Gaynor as saying that the barrier to mass acceptance is much higher for games than for other media: "To read a book, all you need to do is go to a library, pick one up, and start reading (which isn't usually an obstacle considering the high literacy rate in the modern world.)" Which is true, but that's a relatively new development. You only need to go back a few hundred years to find a time when the only literate people were the ruling classes, either in government or clergy. Even our hyperliterate society is largely a post-war phenomenon. Maybe we need to look ahead by decades, or even centuries, to find a time when gaming will be as ubiquitous as reading or watching movies, but it seems to be catching on much faster than its predecessors did.

-Along a similar track, Alastair Harper of the Guardian makes the bold claim that games already are art. He argues that the vast majority of all forms of art and entertainment is trashy -- just look at the bestseller list, the box office charts, the Billboard charts. Yet we don't disqualify the works of genius in those media because of their association with lower-brow fare. Nor do we use their weak sales numbers as an argument against their worth. It's generally accepted that commercial fiction subsidizes literary fiction, blockbusters subsidize art films, and so on. We're not there with games. Instead, games with something on their minds have to sneak in that part of themselves, under cover of blaring pronouncements about next-gen graphics.

-Following up on recent Blu-ray news, Wal-Mart has announced that they, too, will be discontinuing HD-DVD in order to focus exclusively on Blu-ray. The writing's on the wall -- even Toshiba may be ready to pull the plug.

-Enjoy your weekend!

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