Last-Minute Links

I’m defending my dissertation proposal today at 1:00, and then I leave for Seattle tomorrow for a week. I’m headed to the Penny Arcade Expo, and I won’t be bringing my laptop, so things will probably be pretty quiet here for a bit. Here’s a few last-minute links to check out in the meantime:

Game ratings: Eurogamer (link via Game Politics) reports on how some developers feel that the ESRB is veering a little too close to McCarthyism. The examples offered here—which include seemingly arbitrary guidelines, the complete proscription of sexual content, and quashing even satirical resistance to authority—seem pretty reminiscent of the Comics Code, which arguably stunted that industry for decades.

Geek venues: Jacob sends along a link to UK geek venues. Every country should have a map like this (it would make my job easier).

Women in IT: Slashdot features a link to a Computerworld article about how women in the IT industry cope with the men’s-locker-room atmosphere. I link directly to Slashdot to begin with because it actually refers back to one of its own posts as an example of the men’s club attitude.

Almost casual gaming: Kotaku reports that European Xbox 360s are seeing some price cuts and some renaming; it’s unclear to me whether the US consoles will be similarly renamed. The high-end “Elite” system will keep its name. The “Premium” (which Kotaku recently referred to as “the standard,” as it seems to be the bare minimum for playing games on actual disks) will be renamed the “Pro”; it recently dropped from $400 to $350 over here, and comes with a hard drive, a wireless controller, and a headset for online voice chat (though the online service is an extra $50 a year to actually play games on it). The “Core” system, which will be renamed the “Arcade” version in Europe, recently dropped from $300 to $280, and has always included a wired controller, with other peripherals extra.

The “Arcade” version will be coming with a memory card preloaded with five Xbox Live Arcade games, perhaps including Pac-man. This sounds something like the strategy I suggested in a recent post—that is, making a cheaper Xbox system more explicitly aimed at casual, downloadable games—but it’s still priced way too high for actual casual gaming. Even when Microsoft is trying to go “casual,” it still sort of veers toward “hardcore.” (Can I coin “hardcasual”? “casualcore”? Maybe I should just stop trying.)

That’s all for now. Feel free to drop me an email if you feel like saying hello at PAX!