Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Adults Who Play Animal Crossing: City Folk are Up to No Good! What?

**Please note that the news story Wii Gamers Vulnerable to Crime appears to have been removed from the ABC17 website.** Updated 03/21/09

I was astounded to read yesterday that adults who play Animal Crossing: City Folk and similar games are more than likely up to no good. I'm not making this up. Here is an excerpt from a story, Wii Gamers Vulnerable to Crime, reported by ABC17 in Missouri:

" "There is no reason an adult should have this game," says Andy Anderson, Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force.

Anderson says adults playing "animal crossing" and similar games are likely doing it for the wrong reasons. "

What? I was equally astounded that a news source would include something like this in a news story. I was under the impression that I was allowed to play games that are rated E for Everyone by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. I did not realize that E stood for Everyone but adults.

I wrote to both the reporter and the News Director. The story leaves out important details. Most egregious in my view is that FACT that in order to play Animal Crossing: City Folk (ACCF) with another person there MUST be an exchange of ACCF friend codes. Each person must have the other person's friend code and each person must put the code in the Friend Roster in their game. No mention of this was made. Nope, no mention at all. Why did they not report that parents should pay attention to where their children are getting these friend codes?


Here is the text of what I wrote to the reporter and copied to the News Director:

I must say that I find the reporting in this article to be sub par. While it is true that you can speak to people while playing Animal Crossing: City Folk via the Wii Speak accessory microphone, you can not play the game with or speak to anyone with whom you have not exchanged an Animal Crossing: City Folk friend code. Yes, that's right. If children are being contacted inappropriately by an adult, where did they get the friend code of that person? Why did their parent(s) or guardian(s) let them register the code of someone that they don't know and share their friend code with a stranger? It would certainly help if Andy Anderson knew what he was talking about.

Let me also point out that you do not have to play the game with others to build your town and "to really reach the next level." First, the game does not have levels. Second, you can play the game without any downside without ever interacting with another person. While it is fun to visit other towns, it is not necessary for game play.

There are many, many adults who play Animal Crossing and games like it solely because they enjoy video gaming. Animal Crossing: City Folk is the 3rd iteration of the game to make its way to North America. The first was Animal Crossing for Nintendo Game Cube (2002), the second was Animal Crossing: Wild World for Nintendo DS (2005), and the third is Animal Crossing: City Folk for Nintendo Wii (2008). I think that Andy Anderson does not have the vaguest clue when he states that adults who play Animal Crossing: City Folk and games like it are likely doing it for the wrong reason. This conclusion is completely spurious and unsupported. Are adults only supposed to play First Person Shooters? or games rated M? Ridiculous.

It's also obvious that Andy Anderson has no hands-on knowledge of the Nintendo Wii. In the future, I hope that when you report on issues like these that you not only gather all the facts, but you report them as well.

The response from the News Director:

Thanks for your comments. I realize it's rare for sexual predators to make contact with kids through the game. I still thought it was important to let people know it was possible, though. We decided to do the story to let viewers know children had been contacted. It was not intended to be an indictment of the game or a smear piece on any form of interactive entertainment. The point of the story was to make parents aware so they could decide whether or not they needed to keep a watchful eye on their kids' activities. We could have been a little more discerning in the comments we used from Det. Anderson as well. Unfortunately for some, they seem to have taken away from the intent of the story. Again, thanks for taking the time to write. We'll consider your comments when we cover similar stories in the future.

My response to the News Director's response:

I believe that you failed to be accurate in your reporting. As I pointed out, a child simply can't power up a Wii and connect to other people. In order for there to be interactions with another ACCF player the 12 digit ACCF Friend Codes must be exchanged and those numbers placed in the Friend Roster within the game. Without a mutual exchange of codes, there can be no interaction. Parents can simply not allow the exchange of Friend Codes. They are easy enough to remove from the child's Friend Roster as well.

In addition, in order to have interaction with friends on the Wii itself a 16 digit Wii Code must be exchanged and then entered into the respective address books. Again - no exchange of Wii Codes; no interaction. I think that you missed an important point when you failed to point out that parents need to be wary of where their children are getting these codes both for ACCF and the Wii itself.

I don't believe that you smeared the game. The disingenuous comments made by Det. Anderson that you reported smeared every adult who plays ACCF or similar games. Balanced reporting without inflammatory comments and with a solid factual basis would have served the purpose of alerting parents much better.

And the response from the News Director:

I appreciate the follow up. Once again, you make very good points.


I looked at the story again this morning and no changes have been made.

Do I think that parents should keep an eye on any interaction that children have over the Internet whether it is via IM, email, a video game, or other means? Absolutely! Do I think it's a good idea to let parents know that they should know who is associated with a Friend Code their child uses in an online game? Absolutely! While I believe that there are some adults playing video games for the wrong reasons, I don't think that labeling as suspect every adult who plays ACCF and similar games serves any purpose. It's inflammatory, unsupported, and for the most part wrong.

Qwill's Qwestion: What do you think?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What is "Urban Fantasy" to you?

Before I get started, I want to mention that I am really looking forward to the debut novel by Jaye Wells titled Red-Headed Stepchild. The buzz about this book is exceptional. There is a contest over at Amberkatze’s Book Blog. So head over there and enter and you may win a copy. Red-Headed Stepchild has a March 31, 2009 release date.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog (which is 2 days late):

The blogosphere is replete with discussions about Urban Fantasy, well the part of the blogosphere I seem to read regularly. It seems that the definition of “Urban Fantasy” is murky. Let’s parse this if we can –

Fantasy – Fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements.*

Urban – Of, relating to, or located in a city.*

That gives us a very rough approximation of Urban Fantasy (UF) – a fictional work with highly fanciful or supernatural elements in which the locale is a city. It's not a horrible definition but it is lacking. It reminds me of the saying – all generalizations are false including this one.

I think my view of and the way I would like to define UF is influenced by the way I came to UF. I generally don’t like Fantasy, especially Epic Fantasy. I’ve read and enjoyed series by Anne McCaffrey, Katherine Kurtz and others. None of those books have remained in my personal library. I do love Thomas Burnett Swann’s books. I perhaps should not admit this, but I’ve never been able to read The Lord of the Rings. I didn’t even make it all the way through The Hobbit.

I much preferred to read H.P. Lovecraft, Machen, and Hodgson to reading fantasy as I was growing up. Later I found Elaine Bergstrom’s Austra Vampire series, Poppy Z. Brite, and Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series among others. I’m also a huge fan of dystopias (Animal Farm, The Overman Culture, R.U.R., We, Brave New World, etc.).

I came to Urban Fantasy because of the paranormal element. And I came to it from horror. I’m not going to argue, tempting as it might be, that it is more closely aligned with horror than fantasy although I reserve the right to do so at a later date. It is called Urban Fantasy. I also perceive a dystopian element lurking in some of the stories. Things are simply not as good as they seem.

Is there such a thing as Urban Farror (Urban Fantasy Horror)? There are some scary things in many of these novels. I'd certainly like to have Urban Farror as a subgenre.

So how do we define UF?

Does it have to be set in modern times or simply in a real place that exists or has existed?
Does it have to take place in a city?
Does it have to have a kick ass heroine?
Can it have some semblance of an HEA or is the HEA strictly forbidden?
Do we exclude or include novels that are primarily mysteries?
How many subgenres of UF presently exist?

I have many more questions about the definition of UF than I have answers, obviously.

So what defines UF? I just don’t know because it’s a genre that has existed for quite a while, seems to include many subgenres, and is still evolving. I think I’ll borrow a line from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, "I know it when I see it" ... or at least I think I do.

Qwill’s Qwestions: What defines UF for you? What’s your favorite UF book or series and why do you like it?

*From the American Heritage Dictionary. It's the dictionary that I prefer because it has awesome etymologies.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I have been nominated

Thank you to The Optimistic Pessimist, I think.

Here are the rules:

"List five things that you are obsessed with/addicted to and then nominate five other fabulous blogs to pass on this award on to!"

I'm going to change the rules because I can! First, I'm going to list 5 things that I like. I'm not a person of addictions or obsessions so things that I like will have to do. Second, I'm going to let whomever wants to be a winner be a winner rather than pick anyone out, but if you do decide to play, please let me know.

5 things that I like, not including humans:

1. Bridgewater Pottery Mugs. They are beautifully made. They are one of the few things that I collect. I blogged about them here

2. Books. I like all sorts of literature so I have books from many different genre.

3. My cameras - my Nikon FM2, my Rollei, my Gorizont (a Russian panoramic camera), my Nikon D70, and my Nikon s610.

4. Gardening. I have a few gardens. It's almost time for the Spring cleanup.

5. Watching the sun rise, which I will probably do this morning while sipping some chai tea from one of my Bridgewater mugs. I might even take a few pictures with one of the Nikons while thinking about gardening. All the things that I like together!

So there it is. We well return to our regularly scheduled post soon.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Late my blog post this week

I'll be posting later in the week. The switch to Daylight Savings Time has not gone well. See you soon.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Only 18 days until Spring!

The Vernal Equinox, which heralds that start of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, is on March 20, 2009 at 7:44 AM EDT. Obviously the weather has no clue that Spring is only 18 days away. We've had a major snow storm. Blizzard-like conditions are predicted for this afternoon as heavy snow once again overspreads Connecticut. I expected this storm, but expected it later in the month. This is New England. We always get a big March storm. It's our weather equivalent of March Madness. I present the photographic evidence:

That's my big perennial garden buried under the snow. I was going to start initial Spring preparations this week.

Looking towards the driveway. It looks like everything is coated in icing.

Towards the road. There really is a road out there.

Really.... there is a road out there somewhere!

My gazing ball is wearing a puffy winter hat.

A halloween decoration that I leave up all year.

Again towards that road. That's my mailbox.

Peeking out from the front of the house.

The top of the hedge is covered beautifully. The hedge is about 25 feet high.

The view towards my big garden...again.

A rhododendron.

I think that the photos speak for themselves. It's just started snowing hard again so I may have more photos later.

Qwill's Qwestion: What's your weather like today?