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Jad Chambers Blog

Posts from September 2013

It’s Almost Time Again

We are on the edge of another October, easily my favorite month of the year.  Now last year I did a new blog update every week about some good, scary, chilling entertainment perfect for the season.  Now I’m not going to be that comprehensive again this year (maybe next year,) but I do have some things I will talk about next month (October) that will fit in nicely with the theme.  But I want to start out with a little preview.

I’ve had a lot of fun at the last 2 “Cult Classics” showings at the Palace Theater.  Earlier this month I had a great time watching 1989’s “Batman.”  Tim Burton’s “Batman” was the first movie I ever saw at the Palace, and it was really great getting a chance to re-live a couple hours of my childhood.  And then a few weeks later, I visited again to see “Monte Python and the Holy Grail.”  No need to elaborate, that is ALWAYS a good time.  I think that was my 3rd Grail watching at the Palace over the years.

But the Palace’s Cult Classics Series is always best in October.  Three weekend classics series this year and I can recommend all of them (although I may only go to 1 or 2.)  First up on the 4th and 5th, is “Child’s Play.” That’s the original “Chucky” movie.  The little Cabbage Patch Doll that kills people.  Now I will miss this one.  80’s and 90’s “gorefest” style slasher films (Jason, and Freddy, and that bunch) were always more comedy than horror for me.  Much like these days the “found footage” Blair Witch style movies are just hollow and insubstantial to me.  But if you are a fan of those kinds of films, Child’s Play is a good one.

I may not get the chance to see “The Shining” (I have a possible schedule conflict,) but I will be there if I can.  They’re showing that one on the 18th and 19th. Kubrick adapting a Stephen King novel… yeah, I’ll be there if I can. There’s actually some downside.  If I’m honest, The Shining drags a bit.  Kubrick wasn’t one to chop a movie into a standard 90 or so minutes.  But The Shining could be a textbook on exploiting a setting and scene to create atmosphere. By the time Jack goes full-on axe wielding crazy, the tension has been very slowly dialed up to 11.

And rounding out the series (although it’s technically Nov. 1st and 2nd) is a definite must for me, I will be there.  It’s John Carpenters’ “The Thing.” I’ll admit I have a weakness for John Carpenter films, and this will be a chance for me to see The Thing in theaters, an opportunity I missed the first time around because I was too young to buy the ticket.

Thunder Hockey is starting up again, and I’ll try and make a couple of games in October.  And October 11th – 13th is the Encounters convention at the Best Western at 53rd and I-135.  And as if a Sci-Fi, Gaming, and Anime convention wasn’t enough to get me there; Jim Butcher, one of my favorite authors, will be there.  I’ve been to one Butcher book signing a few years ago in KC, and it will be great to get a chance to talk with Jim again and get another book signed.

Lots to do this October, it’s going to be a good one.

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The Abuse of Tragedy

I’m hearing rumblings of anti-video game sentiment after this latest tragedy in Washington.  Of course a sound political platform wouldn’t need to exploit big, splashy, deadly, tragedies; but the anti-video game "family" groups would rather strike while the emotion is hot rather than let logical cooler heads make decisions. And although the pro-gun lobby has sound Constitutional ground to stand on voices within the NRA and other gun lobby groups would rather engage in scape-goating, lest someone blame guns instead. Since there doesn’t seem to be an obvious video game link in this instance, the accusers (specifically this time a couple of Fox talking heads) have used coincidence.  The shootings happened in the same week as the release of “Grand Theft Auto V.”

GTA is one of the most picked-on video game franchises.  The games are far from the most violent or realistic, and yet ask one of the “footloose town,” book-burning, “won’t someone think of the children,” types about video games and that’s the one most mentioned.  But rather than just point out how pathetic and uneducated those voices are, I’m instead going to do something that they CAN’T.

I’m going to tell you what Grand Theft Auto IS.  They can’t because they have never experienced it.  They don’t play video games.  They condemn based on a title and cherry picked scenes from gameplay.  They speak from a position of ignorance.  I on the other hand have played nearly every Grand Theft Auto game, starting with the very first one.  You may be surprised by this story, unless you to have played GTA: San Andreas.

The in-game character the player controls is Carl Johnson, also called C.J.  Carl is from a poor, inner-city household.  Carl, his brother (called Sweet,) and sister Kendell were raised by their mother in this “bad” part of the city of Los Santos (the game world’s version of L.A.)  When the game begins Carl is returning home after spending several years living in Liberty City (the game world’s version of New York.)  Sweet had been tired of the police not taking care of the drug and gang problem in his (and his mom’s) neighborhood. To keep the pushers and gang members out, he started his own gang of neighborhood youngsters policing his own “turf.”  To kickstart the game, C.J. is returning because someone had murdered his (and Sweet’s) mom.  Unfortunately before he can even leave the airport, C.J. is confronted by a very crooked pair of police officers who lean on C.J. to do jobs for them.  Not like a legitimate police C.I. (informant) but instead as a clean-up man covering for the officers’ illegal activities.

There’s a very rich and detailed story of loyalty, betrayal, redemption, and vengeance in this “homecoming of age” story. There’s no doubt it is a brutally violent story and setting.  But the major themes of GTA:SA…

Nothing is more important than FAMILY.

Drugs are BAD, they hurt the user and everyone around them.

That’s what everyone is railing against, screaming in all their ignorance that the pro-family and anti-drug message is wrong.  I find that funny.  But it’s not the message they hate, it’s the framework that message is presented in.

And you know what?  They have a valid point.  GTA games (all of them so far) are brutally violent.  I really do think it might send a mixed message at the player unless that player has the experience to put the game in the proper frame of reference.  A player needs to be old enough to understand the context of the violence in order to properly interpret the message and separate it from the violent gameplay. And the ESA has addressed this issue as all GTA games have been rated M for Mature.  Placing blame for any underage kid getting his hands on the game squarely on the shoulders of the offending retailer or (far more likely by all studies) the parent who doesn’t care enough to monitor what their kids are playing.

Still, GTA games are a framework for those stories.  You don’t have to constantly work on progressing the story.  I freely admit that I’ll sometimes kick on GTA just to virtually break some law in front of a cop and start an exciting and fun police pursuit, placing myself in a fleeing vehicle vs. the fictional SAPD.  By the end of the chase (win or lose) along the way I may have wrecked and stolen a dozen or more cars and even possibly hijacked an airplane or two. And other players do much worse; it’s easily possible to go on brutal, rampaging, killing sprees in GTA games. Making the anti-game violence crowd roar in protest, mainly because that’s all they ever see of the game.

But they (like children themselves) don’t put the violence in the right context.  It’s a virtual, cartoony, unrealistic kind of violence that physically injures no one since the actions portrayed are not happening in real life. Engaging in virtual violent behavior can be cathartic.  Just knowing I can go home, pop on GTA, and go on one of my epic police chases seriously decreases the chances that I will instead follow the car that just cut me off and take a shovel to it and its driver as soon as it stops.

Now one of the problems I’ve heard discussed about the latest (and billion dollar selling) GTA game just hitting stores is that It’s 3 main playable characters aren’t as sympathetic as say C.J. from San Andreas.  But even if that is true, the real solution of the “problem” of violent videogames is pretty easy.

Parents or Guardians… DO NOT BUY A GAME FOR A KID THAT EXCEEDS THE RECOMMENDED AGE RATING FOR THE PLAYER.  There… problem solved.  Now just take all that excess ire and get riled up about something the other political party is doing. After all, the only way to prove that they’re wrong is to yell talking points louder than they do. It requires just as little thought as condemning an entire entertainment medium that they know nothing about, should be right up their alley.

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Locations: L.a.New YorkSantosWashington
People: Carl JohnsonKendell

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