Metal Gear Solid V: Will gamers be playing as Snake or Jack Bauer?

Konami shocked the gaming community when it unveiled that actor Kiefer Sutherland will play Snake (aka Big Boss) in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The news comes after months of speculation when its was learned that David Hayter, the actor who has provided the iconic voice of Snake since Metal Gear Solid, will not return.

Obviously fans were shocked by the change up and have been sharing their mixed reactions. Some have welcomed the change as a new perspective on the character while others are furious that the game has rejected the spirit of Snake. Its common to find gamers having some doubt that Sutherland could bring the same character motif as Hayter. The fans do have a valid point.

When gamers get the chance to play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain; will it feel like they are taking the role of Snake (aka Big Boss) or the role of Jack Bauer?

Despite his reputation as an respected screenwriter; Hayter’s performance as Snake has been engraved into his legacy (like Sean Connery as James Bond). Meanwhile Sutherland is iconic for his role as Jack Bauer in the acclaimed series, 24an espionage-themed drama that focus on the 24-hours time period of Agent Bauer and members of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU).

The linguistic dialect and its personal traits of a character have always been driven by the actors who have portrayed them. Yet the problem presented is the actor who has been synonyms with Snake is being replaced by an actor who is synonyms with another iconic character. While they may be iconic heroes admired by action buffs; Jack Bauer and Snake are two different characters.

On the surface; Snake was influenced by the character Snake Plissken (played by Kurt Russell) from the classic John Carpenter film, Escape From New York. After the events of Snake Eater, Snake (aka Big Boss) has become a character driven by resentment who at first is trying to find a purpose to fight. By the start of Peace Walker; Snake has established his own private army to provide needed service regardless of nations or ideologies. Meanwhile he seeks to fight for a cause that he believes in which brings him into conflict with his former colleagues. Hayter’s performance gave Snake the same kind of tone projected by Kurt Russell but with a more dramatic respectability.

Unfortunately Bauer as a character is nothing like Big Boss.

Jack Bauer is the personification of a hero America needed to look up to in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He is a loyal government agent who has to do what is necessary to protect American citizens from terrorist threats. Like Snake; Bauer shares a similar military background with his involvement in clandestine operations as a member of Delta Force. During the series, he has made so many personal sacrifices while his loyalty has been tested at the hands of incompetent bureaucrats, trusted colleagues and crooked men of power. Sutherland’s performance as Bauer has developed a character that is guilt ridden and trying to overcome past regrets.

Therein lies the problem; Sutherland’s performance as Snake may not be the character gamers want but instead a projection of Bauer. For gamers who have been playing the series from the beginning we have grown accustomed to having Hayter as the voice of Snake. But by using Sutherland; gamers are going to have a radically different mental projection of Snake. At best gamers could play a Snake that has become more battle harden in a way that only Sutherland could depict. Or gamers may have a mental projection of two characters morphed into one.

In the end all speculation games have will be put to rest upon the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Written for GameBeats
06/9/2013
Original Article: ‘Metal Gear Solid V’: Will gamers be playing as Snake or Jack Bauer?

Review: Umami Palo Alto is a burger joint without the burger experience

Located on University Ave., Umami Palo Alto is the newest culinary experience to come to Palo Alto by offering a new take on the classic burger.

I first learned about this place from my friend Refugio Garcia, local freelance writer and avid burger enthusiast. Having opened only a few months ago, we were down for our regular evening of beers and burgers.

For our meal we started with Truffle’em Thin Fries along with Thin Fries while for our main meal we ordered a Manly Burger and a Truffle Burger. All of this enjoyed with a few bottles of Stone Pale Ale and Coke.

Neither one of us are fans of thin fries but we did appreciated how well it was cooked and salted. The burger was exactly to my standards with quality meat that was properly marinated and grilled. Helping the flavor was the bacon, truffle cheese and mix of veggies that took me to burger nirvana.

Despite serving a perfect burger, Umami Palo Alto has a lot of issues with the atmosphere and presentation that keeps it from becoming a good burger joint.

The most obvious would have to be the “fish out of water” decor. Walk in and you will be stumped to see the place decorated with book shelf’s packed with some of the greatest works of literature. This kind of decoration may work if this was a classy coffee shop, not a burger joint.

Its understandable that they have an urge to be original and attract the Palo Alto crowd; but there is a major difference between cliche and traditional. So obviously who ever planned the theme could not tell two apart.

With its unusual choice of decorations resulted in attracting a crowd that is out of place at a real burger joint. The crowd was mostly made up of either obnoxious vegetarians or food snobs whose idea of a “good burger” can be described as blasphemous.

The next issues has to do with the poor presentation of the meal. When our burgers were served it was just a burger on an empty plate – that is it! For restaurants in Palo Alto, presentation is everything and so it comes as a total shock when such a good burger is given a very bland presentation.

Finally to top-off all that is wrong with the setting; the final nail on the coffin is the moment when you realize this burger establishment has no bar. Sure they have an good selection of beers (like every restaurant in Palo Alto) but no bar. Also fountain drinks was not an option and we were forced to pony-up $3 per soda bottle.

The service at best was mediocre as our waitress only attended to us just to take our order and to bring out our order. Also most the waiting staff gave a vibe that feels like they are Stanford students who are upset that their parents forced them to get a job and they lacked the tech skills to join a start-up.

With great burgers but an empty meal presentation and an out of touch atmosphere makes Umami Palo Alto only good for an exploration by burger enthusiast. After that its back to the many other burger joints in the area that actually have a burger atmosphere.

Final Score: 2/5

Written for Digital Journal
02/13/2013
Original Article: Review: Umami Palo Alto is a burger joint without the burger experience

Why shooters should stop imitating Modern Warfare

Call of Duty is a unique franchise, for twice in one decade did its revolutionary game-play redefine a genre and set the new standards for other games to follow. One has to appreciate the first time when it broke with the “lone wolf” concept while pushing the Quake III-engine to its limits.

The second time; Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare took what made the franchise successful and introduced a fast-paced action game-play set in a visually detailed environment while making the game itself user friendly. This was the final push that made video games a respectable media and a major part of mainstream culture.

However it became less about making an actual game and more about making a game that tries to be an action movie (an issue pointed out by Luke McKinny in 6 Video Games That Just Didn’t Get It). Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was great the first play through but over time it loses the fun and it feels like you have no say in the action except for “kill or be killed”.

Unfortunately because of Call of Duty’s popularity; FPS (first person shooter) franchises have attempted to imitate its success. A few have done it successfully by borrowing some of its desired elements while many have just done a “copy & paste” the content into their games.

Medal of Honor, Crysis 2 and Killzone 3 are good examples to look at for games that have borrowed elements of Call of Duty successfully. Both used what they felt was needed to enhance the game-play without having to compromise the aspects that made it a unique game.

On the other side of the spectrum you have games like Homefront, Battlefield 3, and Goldeneye 007 that took the “copy & paste” approach. Homefront was over hyped as a new style of shooter created by John Milus only to be nothing more but a watered down Call of Duty. Battlefield 3’s single player campaign was heavily panned for being too much like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 at a slower pace. It was the Call of Duty-aspects in the Goldeneye 007-remake that robbed gamers of what made the original so unique.

Like with the sand-box / crime trend that was started with Grand Theft Auto III; developers are taking a style that is popular and imitating it in the laziest way possible. Also like Grand Theft Auto III; for every original work that was released the market was flooded with five clones.

The harsh point is that, just like Grand Theft Auto, the game-play aspects that have made Call of Duty a success only works with Call of Duty.

Sadly one could not expect for this trend to fade away soon due to the volume of success and cost effective production. For example: 24 hours after its release; Call of Duty: Black Ops sold 5 million units while earning $360 million, that is double the success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt.1 on its opening weekend. Meanwhile: Grand Theft Auto IV made $500 million during its release week but was produced on a budget of $100 million (making it one of the most expensive games developed). Call of Duty: Black Ops had an estimated budget of $10 million.

With this volatile market; the gaming industry is taking a cue from Hollywood and playing it safe. So while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 may not have added anything new for the FPS-genre; it has made Activision a lot of money at a small production cost. Unfortunately too many developers will very poorly try to imitate Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in 2012 thinking it will produce the same results

Written for GameBeats
12/12/2011
Original Article: Why shooters should stop imitating Modern Warfare

Why is gaming culture misogynistic?

The question was brought up recently in the Mother Jones article “Why It Sucks to Be a Woman in the Video Game Industry” by Interactive Editor Tasneem Raja.

Raja’s article examines the sexism women deal with in the gaming industry from sexual harassment and disparity in the compensation structure to having female developers go unacknowledged for their accomplishments.

One could just brush all that off as some liberal publication trying to preach about feminist ideology. Unfortunately, Raja is not the first writer to bring up the misogynistic aspect of video game culture.

Back in 2010, David Wong, Senior Editor of Cracked.com, examined the gaming culture’s attitude toward women and the industry’s depiction of them in “5 Reasons It’s Still Not Cool to Admit You’re a Gamer”.

Most notably, Wong cites an article from The Guardian about the sexual harassment women gamers are subjected to online. The best example of this is when females play with male avatars just to avoid the “Tits or GTFO” remarks.

Several months after Wong’s article, Seanbaby (iconic humor writer and avid gamer) wrote in his column about the misogynistic undertones of Red Dead Redemption. He even explores the obvious sexism in the “Dastardly” achievement/trophy, which is unlocked after the player sets a hogtied woman on the train tracks and witnesses her death.

Flash forward to July of 2012 when Cracked writer J.F. Sargent wrote “5 Prejudices That Video Games Can’t Seem to Get Over“, which had a section dedicated to games that degraded strong female characters. The article gave a lot of attention to the feminine traits displayed by Samus Aran in Metroid: Other M (a lot of it based on Abbie Heppe’s review for G4).

Why is gaming culture so misogynistic?

The best answer regards the upbringing many gamers had during the ’90s up until the mid ’00s. During this era, gaming was part of geek subculture and so was often ridiculed by mainstream culture.

Gamers were more likely to be outcasts in high school, which made them the victims of taunting and teasing. It’s likely that many had bad experiences with women or relationships in their youth while being stereotyped as “virgin for life.”

Later in life, these gamers became adults and entered this industry just as video games became accepted by mainstream culture. Unfortunately, these gamers still harbor the old animosity toward women.

Their life experience has conditioned them to see women as nothing more than useless sources of pain and pleasure.

Another perspective is the influence of pop culture on the narratives of video games. Cinema and comics of the mid ’70s to late ’80s has had a major impact on the development of video game stories; however, most of these films often placed women into the “useless chick role” or had strong but overly sexualized female characters.

Sure, there’s exceptions to the rule that gaming culture is misogynistic. But trying to write up a list of “strong video game heroines (not overly sexualized)” tends to be limited when all you have is:

· Jill Valentine (Resident Evil & Resident Evil 3)
· Rebecca Chambers (Resident Evil 0)
· Claire Redfield (Resident Evil 2)
· Samus Aran (Metroid)

End of list!

Gaming is supposed to be a fun way for people to escape their boring and mediocre life for a few hours (or more). Video game culture has recently become part of pop culture, but it won’t become socially progressive if it continues to have such a demeaning outlook toward women.

Written for GameBeats
12/3/2012
Original Article: Why is gaming culture misogynistic?

San Jose Police’s action against Phuong Ho was justified

Every time law enforcement is doing its job properly, their is always a cry of “police brutality” that follows. The latest involves San Jose Police arresting SJSU student Phuong Ho back in October.

Ho was arrested by SJPD for making a threat to his room mate. Apparently the room mate spilled some soap and Ho threated him with a knife in response. When SJPD attempted to arrest Ho (rather then cooperate), went for his glasses and provoked the incident.

One could already sense that the SJPD acted appropriately and that Ho is greatly to blame for the beating that he received.

For one, he threaten to kill some one on a school campus. Schools have a zero tolerance for such actions. Why? Because of Columbine. Remember the murders made a few death threats that were largely ignored until they came to school with an intent to kill. Second, because he over reacted to a trivial accident just shows how violent or unstable he is.

Hence, his room mate just tipped of the campus administration along with law enforcement to a possible time bomb and now they prevented a future massacre from happening.

As for the excuse about his glasses, common sense indicates when the cops are after you then you should just get on the ground and cooperate. Ho may have been going for his glasses, but the officers had to assume it was a weapon. Cops have to deal with street gangs and drug dealers who pull the same stunt only they try to pull out a knife.

So rather then for all the community groups, activists and opportunists to start crying about “police brutality”, its wise to look into the issue for a view point the involves common sense rather then primitive reaction.

Written for Examiner.com
11/24/2009
Original Article: San Jose Police’s action against Phuong Ho