School started a couple weeks ago for my kids, both of whom have to get up earlier than ever before to catch their respective buses. My 12-year-old son’s bus runs at 6:30am; he gets up at 6. My nine-year-old daughter gets to “sleep in” until 6:45am.

This morning when I went into my daughter’s room to wake her up, she rolled over, pointed her finger at me, and said “bang.” A cute, innocent gesture from a child who probably learned it from watching SpongeBob or Bugs Bunny do it. (We watch a lot of retro cartoons in my house.) Had I made this gesture as a child to my parents they would have either laughed or simply “shot” me back. Instead, I had to sit my daughter down and explain to her why she can never make this violent gesture outside our home.

Last year, my seven-year-old nephew got suspended from school for three days for bringing a knife to school. He had just joined the Boy Scouts and received his first pocket knife: a tiny “Swiss Army” knock-off complete with a bottle opener, corkscrew, nail file, and a couple of rusty blades no longer than your big toe. He knew he wasn’t supposed to bring it to school but, being seven-years-old and the proud owner of a “new” knife, he did. He showed it to a friend during recess, who told another friend, who told somebody else, who told a teacher. A few minutes later my sister was on her way to the school to pick up this obvious menace to society. I doubt that knife could have penetrated someone’s eyeball without a ten yard running start, but rules are rules, and common sense be damned.

Earlier this week, a high school student in South Carolina was both arrested and suspended for writing a story about shooting a dinosaur in creative writing class. In 2013, a five-year-old child in Oklahoma was asked to turn his Michigan sweatshirt inside out because it “promoted gang activity.” Earlier this year, a third grader in Colorado was suspended for shaving her head, which she did to support her friend who has cancer. Earlier this month, a Florida mother had the audacity to let her seven-year-old walk by himself to a neighborhood park. She was arrested and charged with child neglect — a felony. Last month a woman was arrested for leaving her nine-year-old at a park by herself.

Last month, a fourth grader from Georgia who was given a school assignment to “bring in some of your favorite toys to talk about” was suspended for bringing a Nerf gun to school. This spring, a high school student was suspended for refusing to turn his NRA t-shirt inside out. The school said that the boy’s shirt “violated the school’s policy prohibiting clothing that might incite or encourage violent activities” by displaying the Second Amendment. In 2000, police were called after a fourth grader threatened to shoot a paper wad at another student using a rubber band. In 2008, a third grade student was suspended and set home after bringing a 1 1/2 inch charm/medallion shaped like a gun to school. “Rumors of the incident also scared two families into keeping their children home the next day,” according to the story.

The story that came to mind though was this one. In 2013, a third grader was suspended for “using his thumb and index finger to pretend his hand was a gun,” exactly what my daughter did to me. I had to sit down with my nine-year-old daughter and explain to her that pointing her finger at someone and pretending it was a gun — even if her finger wasn’t loaded — could get her suspended from school.

What I didn’t tell her about were all the times my friends and I played cops and robbers. We played “war” a lot as a kid. A few of us had camouflage pants and hand-me-down Army jackets that we would wear while running around the neighborhood chasing one another and yelling “bang!” Then there were the Roman Candle wars, in which we lit fireworks and shot them at one another. God forbid the stories of our BB gun wars ever get out; I don’t know that 30 years exceeds the statute of limitations for that.

One year for Halloween I dressed up as a ninja, and carried with me a real ninja sword. While the blade was made of aluminum alloy and therefor unable to be sharpened, I’m sure that would not dissuade a police officer or well-meaning citizen for shooting you for brandishing it. Had someone tried to take it from me I would have thrown one of the throwing stars in my pocket at them. Not one of those dumb foam ones; real metal ones, the ones that stuck in wood and sheet rock and people’s faces.

For the record, I never stuck a shuriken into anyone’s face. I played Dungeons and Dragons and never worshiped the devil. I listened to heavy metal and never tried drugs. I played with toys with little parts and never choked. I drank drinks with aspartame and never got cancer. I watched violent movies and played violent video games and never once tried to kill anyone.

And I pointed my finger at other kids, said “bang,” and never once shot another human being.

Just for the record — so far we have suspended and/or arrested children for wearing t-shirts with college logos, bringing Nerf guns and gun-shaped medallions (the size of a Monopoly piece) to school, shaving their heads to support friends with cancer, threatening to shoot another student with a rubber band, and for writing about threatening to shoot a neighbor’s pet dinosaur as part of a creative writing assignment.

Earlier this week, a gun range instructor was killed after handing a fully automatic Uzi submachine to a nine-year-old girl (the same age as my daughter) at a gun range as her parents recorded the incident with their cell phone. It is not currently known whether or not the girl had ever worn Michigan sweatshirts to school, shaved her head, or ever walked to a park alone before.

Neither the girl’s parents nor the gun range, all of whom thought it would be a good idea to place a fully automatic machine gun in the hands of a nine-year-old girl, have been charged with any crimes.

Our kids are not the problem here.


Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC)

Thank you,, for the screenshot!

Let’s call it “Actually Serious Sam”. Though the settings and enemies wind up getting goofy beyond belief, it is BJ Blazkc– BJ Blasco… It’s the main character who makes this such a stirring experience. There is no wisecracking or clever quipping. There is a quiet man in a struggle against pure evil, recalling all of the lessons in his life to achieve this final victory. The writing, particularly BJ’s narration, is EXQUISITE, and if Ice Cream Jonsey’s opinion is that the writing in Portal is the LEAST we should accept, I believe this game is worthy of acceptance.

More than that, it is the first first person shooter (or really any action game) I’ve seen that actually knows how to tell a story. Give some nods to technology, which is now able to make games look and sound pretty much exactly like movies, but give nods to the production crew as well. Though the story is naturally paper thin, it is told in a way that when the (beautiful, remarkable) end credits roll, you might actually feel an emotion in response to all that you’ve been through. Magnificent.

And even more than that, it is just a great shooter. You run around getting health and weapons and killing Nazis and Nazi robot-y things. Just like you did the first time. For all its high-technology glistening production sheen, the gameplay itself is remarkably and thankfully faithful to the game that started it all. No crafting. No multi-layered stories all going on at the same time. No open world. Just the next set piece to fucking blast your way through, and the guns and deaths and enemies here are among the more satisfying you’re likely to find in the genre.

Also the Meshuggah guitarist plays part of the soundtrack, and the scene that it’s used in is the most fun you’ll have on a computer this year, without question.

Basically, in my opinion, I have played the best two FPS games in the genre’s history, and they both bear the name “Wolfenstein”. One gave birth to an entire form of entertainment, and the other one comes pretty close to perfecting it.

I thank you for your time.

(Although it is kind of annoying finishing a game and then seeing “completion: 47%”. Remember when finishing a game meant you were at least halfway through with it?)

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(Editor’s note: from our delightful forum, Senior Writer Jerry Whorebach looks back on Friday to the class PC game, Doom..)

Something I loved about Doom was the thematic consistency of the episodes. The shareware episode, Knee-Deep in the Dead, was Romero’s baby. It took place in some kind of space base, where the levels had names like Hangar and Nuclear Plant. It was slick and polished and non-stop fun. It was exactly what you’d want out of a sci-fi shooter.

Episode 2, The Shores of Hell, was made up of all the levels Tom Hall started back when he still thought they were making System Shock. Tom stormed off in a huff when he found out the other guys were more interested in selling enough copies of Smash TV in 3D to buy everybody two Ferraris, so they hired Sandy Petersen ten weeks before release and told him to turn Tom’s drafts into something playable. The result was a collection of tight, overdetailed, realistic human facilities blown out into these huge Satanic abstractions vomiting demons out of every orifice. You’ll be stalking through a warehouse where the amount of geometry wasted stacking individual crates of various sizes and shapes borders on the autistic one minute, only to find yourself circle-strafing around unadorned stone obelisks on a floor textured like writhing intestines the next. The impression is of a facility teetering on the brink of madness, one foot in the oppressive order of MegaTraveller and the other in the sucking chaos of Call of Cthulhu. Even the level names remind you you’re losing control, with titles like Containment Area and Command Center in the first half giving way to Halls of the Damned and Spawning Vats in the second, all culminating in the Tower of Babel where you face the living embodiment of this bipolar techno-demonic schizophrenia: the Cyber Demon.

After that came Episode 3, Inferno, which was pure Petersen and pure cosmic horror. Levels became more open and non-linear, but also simpler and more traditionally dungeon-esque, with a medieval emphasis on keys and locks and traps and treasure. Game spaces got even more abstract, but the abstraction was easier to accept in the context of an alien dimension that’s also Hell. The early outdoor level where the map followed the contours of a human hand was just the sort of goofy high-concept breather the game needed at that point to remind us all just how much FUN we were having, playing this most awesome of video games. That was followed by a bunch of tricky, playful, experimental maps with plenty of the bread and butter blasting action you’d gotten so good at by that point, and then a bizarre end boss that didn’t make a whole lot of sense until you remembered, oh right, games designers.

I just hope whoever’s making the next Doom understands that what made the Cyber Demon so fucking memorable was all the intentionally and/or accidentally brilliant level design going on around him :(

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Jerry Whorebach

Watch_Dogs Initial Impressions (PC)

(Editor’s note: I was really into the idea of Watch_Dogs. Loved the trailers, loved the gameplay presented. I’ll still buy it someday, probably. Sure, I’m not going to pretend that everyone on Caltrops doesn’t hate Ubisoft’s Uplay system because we do. But with that in mind, Caltrops Senior Writer jeep offers up the following opinion on Watch_Dogs for the IBM PC and 100% compatibles. — ICJ)

Watch_Dogs is pretty bad on the PC at launch. Mark this as the first time I ever agreed with Kuchera (though that shitty site gave it an 8 somehow, hope they got paid). Cars are only semi-drivable. Missions are broken, they send you out to “knock over” a mob guy and then they’re like WTF don’t kill him.” Should I maybe hack into his heart and hurt his feelings a bit instead? Or just like trip him up a little I guess? Except I can’t use melee attacks 90% of the game and the hacking scanner only works every 7th time I push the “z” button. Character advancement is boring mostly, just shit you should be able to do out of the gate anyway.

Everything in there looks like they had teams work on it separately. Also every single character and pedestrian in the game is so boring and plastic and then lovingly crafted french accent punk goddess out of nowhere? All of the writing is pathetic. Every word of it. Even relative to other games. Stupid, meaningless, pointless statements that don’t match the characters’ motivations or actions. In another medium we’re passing through what might be the absolute nadir of cinema history, but here in games we’re gonna squander the perfect chance to grab even more of film’s audience by basically puking directly in our player’s ears and eyeballs. They threw in racist/patriarchal etc etc whatever while they were at it because why the fuck not? Wouldn’t be tone deaf and dimwitted enough otherwise.

Hacking the Internet of things is fun, like jumping into a camera to jump into another one looking for the right angle to hack that guard’s grenade to go off. I can see why they thought they had a big deal thing there because hacking through a well-designed set piece is genuinely cool, but the available opportunities to indulge in that are pretty scarce. It’s a minigame here, for all the frequency you get to engage the hacking for anything useful it ends up something you’d play between chocobo races at the amusement park in Final Fantasy 7

The rest of the game is trivial when it isn’t actively trying to make you stop playing it: glitches, crashes, can’t controls vehicles (except dirtbikes, rps got that right. those things handle like they fell out of another, better game), can’t aim without clipping pedestrians, can’t aim hacks without grabbing the “blow up everything within 2 feet” target, can’t use any kind of fast travel when you’re in a mission (I got dropped all railswise into a chain of missions to start and haven’t been able to use the train in the 3 hours I’ve played the game). Also no quicksaves (that’s right whorebach this fucking thing is wall to wall checkpoints, just have your gun auto-aim a curved path around the one wall in the building that’s decided to provide cover today, clip some random bank patron and then auto-reset you back to the spot you were standing at the other end of the city when you finished the last mission). It doesn’t even save on quit. Maybe I’d like to stop playing sometime between now and the hour from now it’ll take me to drive across the city, bouncing off cars and praying I don’t run over pedestrians on the way to have a 25/75 chance of engaging a decent set piece or solving a trivial puzzle.

If you didn’t already pay for this like I did just don’t. Don’t wait for the Steam sale, just go over to The Pirate Bay. That way you can bask in the schadenfreude of seeing 200 talentless people spray shit at you for a few hours without the indignity of having to even look at the Uplay client.

Retard-fucking game publishers just kind of repeating past mistakes over and over. This game is the absolute opposite of everything that was good about Saints Row 4, and the people who designed it, coded it, wrote it, modeled it, animated it, marketed it, produced it and decided to ship it a year early can skip right over “feeling bad” and go right to “stop making games.” this guy can go with them:

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Titanfall (PC)

Titanfall is good. There. Happy? It’s fine. Everything it sets out to do it does well and even if you’re not one of those insufferable losers who only buy 3 games a year, go to the Titanfall forums full of Titanfall jackoffs who have Titanfall race-car beds even though they’re 35 and argue about whether one fictional gun is OP and another isn’t, you’ll still have a good time playing it. This game is probably what the Mechwarrior reboot should have been, or Mechassault to begin with. Infantry with heavy bipedal armor support and mayhem. If you’re so broke that you can only afford one or can only beg and plead with your parents to get you one game this year, get this one.

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Review: Might & Magic (PC)

No, Seriously, You Should Play Might And Magic

I know, I know–it’s like how you’ve always meant to watch Citizen Kane. Didn’t they do some kind of social science study about that, how people have these should watches on their Netflix queue but screw that, I’m’a watch Buffy again? Yeah, you say you want to play the old-school games, that you’re this Person Who’s Interested In Games And Gaming History And All Of That, but when it comes down to it, I mean, do you really want to be staring at this for the next several dozen hours of your gaming life? Fuck that, pass the Skyrim.


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Web Comic Artist John Campbell Set Fire To His Kickstarter Stuff

About a year ago John Campbell started a Kickstarter going for a reprint of his stupid zany webcomic. Somewhere along the line he admitted that he had faked being depressed to excuse the fact he hadn’t mailed anyone shit. You can read about it here

Starting in January 2014, Campbell’s postings on his tumblr blog started getting really weird. I mean, at this point you don’t think he’s crazy but it’s hard to take him seriously when he’s ranting in that terrible faux-HEY LOOK EVERYONE I’M SO WAAAAACKY style. By mid-February he is full on pants-on-head Timecube crazy.

Then, he decides to respond to this genuine reply from the creatore of HijinxEnsue to a woman asking an innocent question about how to help her daughter make webcomics with a flippant, crazy rant about how she’s probably going to get sexually assaulted. This does not go over well with Joel Watson of Hijinks Ensue. and things get heated.

On February 21st, Campbell write an I quit post where he basically implies that Joel Watson should quit writing webcomics and go save a predominantly black orphanage or something.

On February 27th, Campbell writes the most fucking insane rambling screed since Nixon’s White House tapes and posts a video of him setting fire to the books people ordered for his Kickstarter.

(I think we all owe Joel Watson a world of thanks for sending this guy completely off the deep end, even though as he pointed out to me in reply we all should have seen the signs of this coming awhile ago.)

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State of Decay (PC)

A very fun but glitchy open world/Grand Theft Auto clone that is perhaps a bit too short. It could definitely do with some polish and shows its console roots. Still it is ridiculously fun when everything pops off well and perma-death really does give you a sense of danger.

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Who Will Stand Up For Dungeon Keeper?

(Editor’s Note: There is a new game by Electronic Arts called Dungeon Keeper. It is a “free to play” microtransaction game that is a pile of shit. They are trying to filter reviews at the Google Play Store, through a process of only taking you to the review screen if you first say you will give it five stars. Thanks to Eurogamer for the article.)

Let’s get the low-hanging fruit out of the way. Fahey from Kotaku wrote some piece of shit article talking about how all mobile gaming is shit, so he doesn’t get why people are mad. It’s typical Kotaku linkbait and there’s nothing worth even quoting except this:

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BRAWLERS: The Best Brawling Games In The World Right Now

Call me a weirdo, but I say brawlers have more in common with Robotron than they do Street Fighter-style one-on-one fighting games. In brawlers the enemies don’t try to mimic human opponents, they have set patterns of movement and attack. You are more than a match for any enemy in the game on an individual basis, the challenge comes from handling them in numbers with various combinations of enemy types while navigating an environment full of hazards. While you may have all manner of combination attacks and counters to unleash on a single hapless foe, the real game here is taking apart the entire mob of enemies without getting too torn up yourself in the process. Position and crowd-control are the top priority in brawlers. Think “Oldboy.”

Over the last couple years there’s been a miniature explosion of brawlers for the PC, so let’s take a look at some highlights:

Shank 2

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