Monday, July 26, 2010

Last post before the Rapture

Today was an obvious day to post here. First, it lets me slide in under the one-month threshold for inactivity. I don't mean to quibble about degrees of laziness--like pregnancy, you either are or you aren't--but taking a step every now and then to cover your own butt from the worst accusations is a good idea. Maybe you love blow and hookers, but snorting blow off a hooker's butt is crossing a line. Maybe you're a slothful fucker with a blog, but at least you don't go a whole month without posting. You took at least one step down the road of dignity, and credit is due. If you'll recall, these were roughly the standards to which we held George W. Bush. The man did not personally destroy New Orleans--he may have appointed a known incompetent to a disaster-management position for the ideological reason of proving the government's incompetence, and New Orleans may have been destroyed as a result, but George Bush did not personally hold any black babies' heads underwater. For this, we salute him.

Another big reason to post today: the Nerd Rapture is coming tomorrow and there's no telling whether I'll even exist on Wednesday. I speak of StarCraft II, the long-awaited sequel to the world-altering original from 1998. If you weren't paying attention in '98 (or if you are female), it was just the biggest thing. The nerdiest kids in school played and discussed it endlessly. The coolest kids in school played and discussed it with the nerdiest kids, but kept it away from any girls. Remember this, ladies: the difference between a "cool" guy and an "uncool" guy is that the cool guy is lying to you. He is lying because you want to be lied to. The point is, that game rocked the foundations of an entire young generation and StarCraft II promises to do the same. An astonishing number of People You Know will pick up the game and, at least for a month or so, allow it to consume them. Blizzard releases have a broad cultural pull that few gaming events achieve. Seeing as they haven't released a typical game since 2002's WarCraft 3, our culture's been able to ignore them.

Aside: World of WarCraft was a huge success and has inspired more misleading newspaper stories than any piece of software not abbreviated "GTA," but most people don't play MMORPGs. They view these games like military-grade psychotropic drugs out of a William Gibson novel: products that will reduce you to gibbering street-corner lunacy with such immediacy that their use cannot be contemplated. And while they're making your fingernails fall out, they demand a monthly fee! Never mind that MMOs offer more entertainment per dollar than any other product available, including cable TV and pot.

Anyway, Starcraft is a big deal. I'm curious as to whether a game for PCs only (by which I mean Personal Computers--the game is available, in admirable Blizzard fashion, for both Mac and Windows machines) can really be successful in the modern marketplace. I'm sure it will be, but let's be real: games are sold for consoles these days. Most studios would recoil at the notion of a PC-only title, though strategy games are something of a different breed. It is hard to micro your Speedlings on your Xbox 360 whilst pounding beers. It is even harder to type "GG" at the end of a game while your bros are slapping your ass pink in congratulations. Much as Blizzard would love to make console games (and much as Activision CEO Bobby Kotick would gladly murder his own children for said games, then proudly announce to interviewers that he'd murdered said children because shame is for losers), when the development cycle for your product is longer than the life cycle of the console your options are limited. Diablo 3 will be released in 2020 for Windows Miasma, Ultra-Mac and the PlayStation 3.

I have to admit, I question Blizzard's decision-making process in releasing this title right now. If you recall, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (a dictatorship, not to be confused with the Republic of Korea, a democracy) recently threatened "retaliatory sacred war" over joint US-South Korean naval exercises to be held this summer. Dubbed Operation Invincible Spirit (a name that sounds for all the world like it came out of North Korea), it will consist of maneuvers and tactical procedures, carried out with the goal of wasting a shitload of time, fuel and money to no productive end. But here's my real concern: it's irresponsible for Blizzard Entertainment to critically undermine the national security of South Korea at a time when it's under the threat of nuclear holocaust. The country's entire citizenry will be utterly consumed with Starcraft 2 for at least the next two years, and it's doubtful that even a direct military incursion by North Korea would provoke much of a national response unless, somehow, the Internet got shut off. At which point the South Koreans will be pacing and fussing in front of their routers, waiting for them to restart as the tanks roll through Seoul.

The solution? Release Starcraft 2 tomorrow in America, and hold off in Asia. Since it took 13 years to release a sequel to the first game (and they still LOVE the first game over there), it shouldn't be a big deal to wait a little longer. We can hold off until Kim Jong Il is spirited by the Lord to the Great Frozen Head Depository in the Underground Bunker, and replaced by whatever egg-shaped, jump-suited ("It's a Speed Suit!") progeny he's favoring this month. I'm really not worried about the next guy--by all accounts, dictators' sons are like Michael Keaton's clones in the movie Multiplicity: each gets progressively loopier at a geometric rate. Kim Il Sung was a legitimately terrifying figure, but his son (Kim Jong Il) is a terrifying joke and HIS son (current heir-apparent Kim Jong-Un) is pictured at right. On a related note, I hear Fidel Castro's son is literally Woody Allen's character from "Bananas."

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