An Inquiry Into the History of First-Person Shooter Video Game Villains, Pt. 3

The third and final segment! Continued from An Inquiry Into the History of First-Person Shooter Video Game Villains, Pt. 2.

4. Speculative Warfare (circa 2008 – present)

Because ultra-realistic FPS games are a marketing time bomb, and because of the awkward gameplay moments that will inevitably arise when your setting involves U.S. forces fighting against a real world enemy, ultrarealistic FPS games have now moved on to the fourth and present-day era: speculative warfare. Like the games of the two previous waves , speculative warfare games feature wars between real nations and real human organizations. However, instead of recreating past or current wars, these games are set in the present or near future, and involve hypothetical conflicts between existent nations.

As always, Russia is the common denominator. Even with the Cold War two decades dead, video games have no shortage of creativity when it comes to finding ways to, once again, make Russia the villain. Just like how the historical reenactment games rewrote history to make Soviets the bad guys, speculative warfare games warp modern day international relations into unlikely scenarios where Russia is the evil invading force. For instance, in Battlefield: Bad Company 1 (2008) and 2 (2010), the player is thrown into the midst of a modern day war between the Russian Federation and the United States, with little time wasted on explaining how such a conflict could ever come to pass. In contrast, Modern Warfare 1 (2007), 2 (2009), and 3 (forthcoming – 2011) at least try to give some plausibility to their story lines, by inventing the rebel Russian Ultranationalist Party to explain how Russia suddenly becomes an active world threat again. (Although the rumor mill falsely claimed MW2 had been banned in Russia, the developers did take out a scene allowing players to shoot civilians in the Moscow airport. Although shooting Russian civilians was deemed too much for the Russian market, simply having Russia be a villain is not a problem.)

Still other games go for the hybrid Russian villain, by mixing elements of historical military fears with modern day anxieties, and team Russia up with a more likely antagonist nation. For instance, in Frontlines: Fuel of War (2008), you have the Western Nations fighting against the “Red Star Alliance” — the mighty pseudo-superpower duo of Russia and China. Likewise, Rogue Warrior (2008) also uses Russia, but teams it up with North Korea and a nuclear weapons smuggling program.

Having Russia be the villain for speculative warfare plots opened the door for other nations to become the hypothetical villain. Russian markets never seem to mind when Hollywood or U.S. game developers choose them to be the bad guy, and the trope is so common as to be beneath notice by any diplomatic instruments. But Russia is sui generis, when it comes to the lack of controversy caused by casting it into the villain’s role. Having other nations fill in for the bad guy is not nearly so straightforward. It is not hard to see why — having major U.S. and other Western nation game developers declare that they can foresee ostensibly friendly or neutral nations as likely enemies in a U.S. military conflict necessarily carries some uncomfortable implications.
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Kellogg’s Wrongfully Claims Ownership of All Depictions of Toucans Used in Commerce

There are more than 40 species of toucan in the world, featuring a diversity of sizes, feather patterns, and beak colorations. But the Kellogg Company, maker of children’s breakfast cereal Froot Loops, thinks that it owns the sole right to use toucans in commerce — any kind of toucan, no matter what it looks like. In fact, Kellogg’s believes that they are the only company allowed to even use the brand name “toucan”, or anything that even kind of vaguely sounds like “toucan.”

The Maya Archaeology Initiative's logo

The latest victim of Kellogg’s trademark overreach is the Maya Archaeology Initiative (MAI), a nonprofit that defends and promotes the study of indigenous Maya culture. Kellogg’s is opposing registration of MAI’s logo, claiming that its inclusion of a toucan is an illegal infringement on Kellogg’s Toucan Sam character.

The Maya Archaeology Initiative’s logo features a stylized keel-billed toucan in front of a Mayan pyramid.

In contrast, the Froot Loops mascot, Toucan Sam, is an anthropomorphic blue bird that has no immediately recognizable analog in nature, except possibly some kind of dodo bird/blueberry hybrid. The only toucan species that Toucan Sam bears even a plausible resemblance to is the plate-billed mountain toucan, which is a different genus all together from the more commonly depicted toco toucan or keel-billed toucan. Literally the only thing Toucan Sam has in common with the MAI’s logo is that in both cases the bird depicted is intended to be some kind of toucan.

Toucan Sam

Nevertheless, Kellogg’s has filed a Notice of Opposition to MAI’s registration of its toucan-and-pyramid logo, alleging that

Applicant’s TOUCAN BIRD DESIGN mark so resembles Opposer’s TOUCAN marks as to be likely, when applied to the goods of Opposer, including Opposer’s wide range of licensed goods, including clothing, to cause confusion or mistake or to deceive purchasers resulting in damage and detriment of Opposer and its reputation. In this regard, it should be noted that Opposer’s TOUCAN SAM Marks are frequently displayed in connection with depictions of a jungle theme including Mayan temples and surrounding vegetation. Thus, use of the Mayan pyramid in the Applicant’s TOUCAN BIRD DESIGNS is likely to further strengthen the public’s connection of Applicant’s design with Opposer’s famous TOUCAN equities.

Kellogg’s isn’t just claiming that it owns toucans. It especially owns toucans displayed in Mayan temples and vegetation!

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Bush League Judicial Opinions

After seeing Michael’s post about Judge Spark’s order inviting counsel to a kindergarten party to teach squabbling counsel about how to resolve discovery disputes without oversight, I was curious about whether any other judge had ever used the phrase “kindergarten party” in a written opinion. While I agree with Michael that Judge Spark’s opinions go too far, and are too cruel and targeted to be appropriate, I do think there is a time and a place in judicial opinions for informal turns of phrase. Plus, it is always pretty entertaining when judges try and fail to sound “hip,” by wrongly employing the lingo that all the cool kids are using these days.

As it turns out, no one but Sparks has busted out the term kindergarten party, at least not in any reported order. So I looked into whether any similar phrases were in use, and found that no judge has ever sunk so low as to use the term “weaksauce” in a judicial opinion, and only one or two have referred to conduct as being “amateur hour.”

But I was pleased to see that quite a few judges have seen fit to use my personal favorite synonym for kindergarten party behavior, and have described litigants and attorneys alike as being “bush league.” Among those using the phrase are judges from the Mississippi Supreme Court (“I do not approve of what defense counsel did in this case, but compared to what happened in Cole, Darby’s lawyer is in a bush league. Darby v. State, 538 So. 2d 1168, 1178 (Miss. 1989)), the 7th Circuit (“But the confession was the beginning of the cooperation, for it was the confession that revealed that Rutledge was involved in more than bush-league drug dealing.” United States v. Rutledge, 900 F.2d 1127, 1131 (7th Cir. 1990)), and the 5th Circuit (“The betting began with bush-league sums in early June, 1970.” United States v. Burke, 495 F.2d 1226, 1230 (5th Cir. 1974)).

The 10th Circuit has joined in to — even accompanying its use of the phrase with a pretty terrible pun:

“Arguably, an etymologist would place the terms ‘slime’ and ‘sleazebag’ in the same league as ‘scum’; perhaps a bush league rather than a professional league, but nonetheless the same league.” Henderson v. Times Mirror Co., 669 F. Supp. 356, 361 (D. Colo. 1987) aff’d, 876 F.2d 108 (10th Cir. 1989).

Sadly, the 10th Circuit appears not to understand its own analogy, given that the whole point of having a bush league and a pro league is that the two are not, in fact, part of the same league.

And here’s a fairly scathing quote from a Massachusetts Superior Court:

“However, within my discretion, I find that a litigant’s right to access to the appellate courts is so important and so sacred that the blatant and transparently bush league contumacious conduct of Bruce D. Amster in attempting to avoid a creditor’s judgment doesn’t qualify for cutting off his appellate rights even though his conduct is flagrant[.]” John P. Kendall v. Hyannis Restorations International Sales, Inc., et al., Superior Court of Massachusetts

My new goal for the day: find an excuse to use the phrase “transparently bush league contumacious conduct”.

And here are some final quotes, attesting to the judicial popularity of describing kindergarten party antics as bush league moves:

“Absent that, the cataloguing of every instance of intense disagreement between the parties over the life of an investigation and trial, be it claimed Brady violations or bush league recess interrogation of the courtroom gallery, contorts the Hyde Amendment into a vehicle for Monday morning quarterbacking Congress simply did not intend.” United States v. Ali, 06-CR-200 (ENV), 2008 WL 4773422 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 27, 2008)

“In comparison to some of the more notorious cybersquatters, Rayne’s registration of roughly thirty domain names might seem bush-league. See H.R. Rep. 106–412, at 13 (noting that certain cyberpirates have been known to warehouse hundreds, even thousands, of domain names).” Savin Corp. v. Rayne, 00-CV-11728 PBS, 2001 WL 34815751 (D. Mass. Mar. 26, 2001)

“Legal academia may have unwittingly contributed to the common failure of counsel to brief thoroughly state constitutional issues by sometimes viewing them as the bush league of constitutional law.” Davenport v. Garcia, 834 S.W.2d 4, 21 (Tex. 1992)

And saving the best for last, we have what must surely be the absolute worst pun that has ever graced a federal court’s opinion, courtesy of the district court for the Southern District of New York:

“Of the magazines cited by defendants as undermining the PLAYBOY mark, PLAYBIRDS has no significance. PLAYBIRDS is a sex-oriented magazine but its style and content is bush league compared to PLAYBOY. It consists essentially of a series of pictures of unclad women with their legs open, exhibiting with dull redundancy the organ that PLAYBOY strives to make mysterious and interesting through suggestive display.” Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Chuckleberry Pub., Inc., 486 F. Supp. 414, 422 (S.D.N.Y. 1980)


Ungrateful Cat Rejects Awesome Cat Bed

My cat is a jerk. I spent the entire morning risking electrocution and vacuum tube implosions to disassemble an old CRT monitor. All so that the noble Lord Ragnarok could have a nifty looking bed to lounge about in.

He loves boxes of all kinds, so I figured he’d enjoy this. He’s kind of, um, big boned, so I needed a big monitor — and the abandoned 21″ inch CRT monitor I found while cleaning out our closets was perfect. Taking it apart was difficult only because I am sometimes an idiot. Also it turns out there are lots of hidden screws on monitors. When in doubt, however, I found that just kind of forcing things apart, with liberal application of wire cutters, pretty much got the job done.

Once it was finished, complete with a stylish pink leopard print pillow, I put it upright and proudly waited for Ragnarok to discover his awesome new bed.

Instead, he excitedly jumped into the discarded metal box interior. And lounged there. For fifteen minutes. While purring happily. What an asshole.

Attempts to force him into the monitor were resisted strenuously. But I deserved to have pictures of my cat pretending to enjoy his new luxury geek bed, dammit, so it was time to pull out the big guns. After heavily dosing the pillow with crushed up catnip and scattering his favorite treats in the back of the monitor, Ragnarok finally agreed to hop inside.

Hopefully, he’ll learn to appreciate the new bed. If not, I’m just going to have to turn it into a cage and get myself a pet mouse.

Update: A solution has been found. To make Ragnar use the monitor bed, simply give him his favorite kind of bed — a plastic tub — and then load the whole thing into the monitor, like it’s some kind of demented kitty oven. Apparently this is much more comfortable than curling up on a nice pillow.