Comic courtesy of Fat Gamers.

I like mine black

Looks like my kettle has boiled. The smell of rich coffee fills my lungs. I take a sip. Ouch! It's too damn hot!

No clues about what major story I'm about to talk about (it's not some new coffee tasting game on the DS either). Rename July 'hot coffee month'. Now there seems to have been some clear resolution on the scandal it's a good time to sit down and reflect upon the ESRB's ruling to re-classify GTA: San Andreas as Adults Only and perhaps discuss the ramifications for an industry under siege.

In short - nothing. A few US politicians jumped on an obvious neo-con vote winner bandwagon, a crazed ambulance-chasing lawyer declared holy war on the games industry, defaming the head of the ESA on the way and, most importantly, the brand value of GTA has increased immeasurably.

Scandal they said. I say damp squib more like. The games industry does scandal like Debbie Does Dallas: disappointingly embarrassing.

If you haven't seen the 'hot coffee' mod for GTA, it's a pointless, pixelated nonsense. It's just not sexy at all. To have declared war on the industry over such a scene, whilst ignoring the bludgeoning and full frontal nudity in the fantastic God of War, highlights the moralists' hypocrisy, (and the fact that they are acting on poor advice). But they won't care - GTA was re-rated. In the eyes of misinformed and concerned parents across the US, Hilary got the job done. They can sleep safer now.

Overblown scandal? I think so

And Rockstar won't care either. In fact, they'll be delighted. More and more people will buy GTA now because of its increased profile. Teenage boys will desire it because of the renewed kudos. There are even ultra-cynical rumours flying around that Rockstar deliberately put the sex mini-game in GTA: SA in the hope it would spark just this kind of controversy.

Whatever the truth, having sat down and thought about the whole sorry saga, my gaming soul feels tainted. Not because I have been exposed to some horrible, hardcore sex mini-game and thus had my fragile little mind corrupted forever, but because the game industry appears amateurish, unprofessional and good only for sexually frustrated spotty teenage boys.

It's no good the industry shouting back at Jack Thompson and Hilary Clinton. Idiotic and sensational scaremongering often does little long term damage, and serves only to satisfy the short-term goals of power hungry politicians. It's like the industry is digging itself a rather large hole from which there is little hope of reprieve.

Instead, the industry should perhaps try something fairly radical: honesty. Rockstar shouldn't have said the sex-scene was created by an illegal hack (They didn't say this exactly, but their statements clearly shifted the blame towards the hacker) which altered the game's source code, because everyone knew they that wasn't entirely true. They should have said the mini-game was included in the retail version of all copies of the game from the start. They should have admitted that they put it in there. Now, not only does the industry look like it's trying to trick parents with hidden explicit mini-games, but the industry is lying about it as well, or at least bending the truth.

Hillary Clinton
Taking advantage? Definitely

Here's another snippet of advice. Don't include bits of games that won't be playable. It's not hard, and it covers your back. Keep the bits you're not sure about in-house, perhaps on personal code you play in the safety of your own home, if that's what turns you on.

In 2005, over thirty years since the first videogame exploded onto an unsuspecting public, gaming seems further away from being taken seriously than at any time in its short history. My hot coffee will eventually cool and the industry will chug along. Jack Thompson will continue his crusade, and I'll be surprised to hear a gaming peep out of Mrs Clinton from now on. But as a pioneer, Rockstar need to grow up. Making great games for adults is fine - and rest assured GTA: SA is a great game. Just don't include crap sex-mini games while you're at it.

Hold on, just need to take a leak... or do I?

When is a leak a leak? This week pictures of a working Xbox 360 were posted in US gaming forums. The poster said he had booted up the system, used the dashboard and played Xbox title Halo 2. Everyone looked and listened, as you would. But who was this devilish scoundrel? Who was the poster? Some high-tech Mission Impossible specialist who had managed to infiltrate Microsoft HQ and escaped with a priceless white next-generation console under his jacket? No. He's the step-son of a Regulatory Compliance Manager working on the Xbox 360 project for Microsoft, who brought home a working prototype of the console.

Boy 360
The entire internet population had a new hate figure

Can you imagine his face when he saw the post? I bet that kid got one hell of a telling off, as well as his stepfather, who might have had a call in the morning to see Mr Gates upstairs. Although, knowing Microsoft, they may well have sent the heavies round to his house to "pick up the box". They might even have "reminded" him why he's been such a bad boy.

But was it a leak in the first place? Would Microsoft really have allowed a 360 to be taken home by a Regulatory Compliance Manager? I'm thinking it's genuine, only because it's too ridiculous a story even for Microsoft.

Leaks in the game industry are of a curious breed. They tend to be in the form of kiddies with photoshop skills posting mock up photographs of next-generation hardware and doctored stills from impossibly good renders of future games. Not like leaks in the film or music industry, which tend to come in the form of 'friends' saying how well a particular celebrity is doing after their latest split from some other celebrity. Oh how far we've come... oh how far we've yet to go.

Lies, damn lies and Nintendo

So Capcom finally announce that Resident Evil will be coming to next-generation consoles. Fantastic. Anyone who played Resi 4 on GameCube will be rubbing their hands with glee - more zombie madness will soon be here.

But there was one member of the next-generation party that was curiously absent from the revelation. Resi 5 is in development for PS3 and 360. Well, what about the Revolution?

This looks stunning. Will it be on the Revolution?

Nowhere to be seen. Surely Resident Evil 5 will be available for Nintendo's next-generation console? Or has the poor commercial success (While not awful, sales aren't near that of a big release PS2 or Xbox title) of GameCube exclusive Resident Evil 4 put Capcom off the legendary publisher forever? It's a curious situation - the way I see it, there's three possibilities.

One: Capcom have dropped Nintendo as a serious console manufacturer for its adult-based games, and views the Revolution as a console primarily for younger and more casual gamers. The Biohazard franchise doesn't work well with the Nintendo brand. Let Nintendo make Zelda, Mario and Donkey Konga games. The PS3 and 360 is where Resident Evil will be from now on. Nintendo fanboys start crying.

Two: Capcom don't know enough about the Revolution to commit Resident Evil to the platform, but will once more details are released. Nintendo fanboys can breath easy.

Three: Nintendo have asked Capcom to hold off the announcement until a later date, because they don't want the Revolution to be seen to be competing in the same space as the PS3 and 360. It will be unveiled at a Nintendo run event later on in the year. A clear indication that Nintendo's console will stand out as a game machine for all ages come release in 2006. Nintendo fanboys approve cautiously.

I hope possibility one isn't true, since it signals, perhaps, the end of Nintendo as a publisher of games for adults. Two's fine, and reassures fans it's a three-horse race this generation. Three is sitting on the fence, but would be a major signal of Nintendo's changing role in the video game industry.

I'm going for three. While Nintendo officials have been spouting official press release drivel about competing head-on with Sony and Microsoft, on the ground they realise their place - and that's as a toy company making games for kids. Like Lego, those games might appeal to all ages, but you won't see much blood in this Revolution.

Are you online?

Online gaming's where it's at right now. There are massive financial rewards for publishers and great social experiences for players to be had everywhere. This week, two announcements revealed just how popular online gaming has become.

Can the game get any more popular?

First off, Blizzard tell the world 3.5 million people are playing World of Warcraft, a number achieved through huge success of the Chinese launch. No virtual world, let alone Azeroth, has even been this busy. Then, just to show this online business isn't the preserve of geeky PC gamers only, Microsoft announced that they had hit the 2 million-user mark for Xbox Live. That's a lot of pre-pubescent American kids screaming down your ear in a Halo 2 Rumble Pit.

So the online revolution is gathering pace. MMOs are going mainstream, online console gaming is finally becoming a realistic proposition, and there's even more to come. The next-generation consoles have already wowed us with their online capabilities (Xbox 360 in particular), and as broadband overtakes dial-up in the UK, expect it to grow exponentially. I have a feeling the traditional single-player experience is starting to feel the heat.

This week's new releases

Being a bit of a Cricket fan it's hard not to recommend Brian Lara International Cricket. With the Ashes now in full swing there isn't a better time to be playing a video game version of the sport. While Brian Lara isn't perfect, it's a damn site better than EA's effort and will probably be permanently housed in your disc tray for the duration of the summer.

Sid Meier's Pirates has finally been released for the Xbox and early impressions suggest that the game is every bit as addictive and enjoyable as the PC version. The gameplay is simple, but the desire to play for that little bit longer means that it's hard to put down the controller once you take to the high seas.

The latest movie tie-in comes on the form of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, nicely released to coincide with the movie and is likely to sell well to kids pestering their parents for the game. The rest of the releases aren't really anything to get too excited over, but with two quality games to choose from, there's nothing to complain about.

  • Asheron's Call: Throne of Destiny (PC)
  • Brian Lara International Cricket (PS2, Xbox, PC)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC, GBA)
  • Codename: Panzers - Phase 2 (PC)
  • Crash and Spyro Super Pack Vol. 1 (GBA)
  • Crash and Spyro Super Pack Vol. 2 (GBA)
  • Sid Meier's Pirates! (Xbox)
  • Yeti Sports Arctic Adventures (PS2)
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