Playing Halo
with my grandsons ...

his game (that came with the Xbox is about the best game I've played (though I'm not much of a game player ... my favorite game is "minesweeper"). I've got an Xbox because I remarked to my wife about a big price drop in Sam's and she took this for a desire to have one ... and bought it for me. "OK", says I, "I now have an Xbox to play with".

Of course, my grandsons (8 yr and 6 yr) took it over immediately. After they tired of car racing and Munch, they settled into Halo - the first person shooter / alien killer. It has great depth. We haven't exhausted it by any means and I think it will last beyond the next installment (Halo II).

There is something weird here ...

Having spent the last 40 years advancing my intellect on every conceivable front ... I now take orders (and dutifully follow them) ... from an eight year old ... because ... he knows more than I. When advancing through the levels together, he leads the way "... so I can protect you" ... and that is actually true. He shoots better than I since he has faster reflexes. My only advantage is boldness. I like to 'mix it up' in the melee, whereas my grandson was a bit afraid of the 'flying, leaping, brain-type' monsters at level six and thought he might get nightmares. He didn't.

My younger grandson (6yr) is permitted to kill me (in Slayer) but I don't dare kill him as this will elicit a tantrum. He's actually too young to play an aggressive kill strategy so we make some allowances. We'll kill him later ;o) ... in maybe two more years.

A game such as this gives a kid a sense of control over the environment (unlike reality where he has little control, knows little and is very much dependent on adults). To be successful in the game is to experience the sense of self-worth that an independent, competent adult would have. I approve of this and believe it to be necessary to proper mental health. A kid wallowing in parental dependence is not preparation for any sort of adult living.

What are we teaching our children?

This game is supposedly for adolescents but my grandsons are into killing big time. I suppose it's because my step-daughter wouldn't let them have "guns" for a long time. Boys need guns to play with when they are young to practice aggression ... like tigers. They're behavior is that of virtually all small boys close in age. They play for awhile ... then they fight. Play - fight, play - fight, play - fight ... all the time they are together. I don't encourage this, they just do it ... by nature. I know well enough not to try to "correct" mother nature. I just stop the worst of it ... by force of arms if necessary ;o)

They were in Best Buy last week and played a demo of "Medal of Honor" (on an Alienware computer). It's not as good as Halo but had good head splatter shots and so forth. A guy was looking at them play and remarked about what terrible things kids were learning these days and what kind of world they would live in. I said, "Maybe this is what the world will be like when they grow up", i.e. everybody killing everybody all the time for survival. This is a distinct possibility. It may be a good thing to learn to kill now ... reflexively ... rather than hesitating when the real thing comes to town. At any rate, they enjoy the game and understand fully the "Unreality" of it ... so I have no qualms here.

Things that need to be fixed with the Xbox

The Xbox is probably the best gizmo on the market right now. I've read that Microsoft is losing about $75 on every machine in order to gain market share. Well, Bill can certainly afford that strategy ... and ... it has certainly worked in the past, eh?

One bone I would like to pick is the field of view. We see normally, over 180o with the stuff on the periphery all blurred and indistinct. What I see in the game seems to subtend about 90o. This is an unrealistic mode and could be improved. Perhaps by taking one inch on each side and compressing another 60o of blurred imagery, one might detect movement to the side as one would do in real life. Some experiment is necessary to see if further realism could be wrung out. This is probably true of any game.

Another thing is, I believe, the most serious flaw. The stick which controls turning is linear. Thus, there is a one to one correspondence between the amount that you push the stick over and the amount of turn on the screen. The resulting effect is an unrealistic and constant over-running the mark when you are trying to aim your weapon at a target. In real life, I would not have any such trouble picking and zeroing in on my target. This is a technical problem and should not be put off as inability to use the game-pad. Rather, the targeting system should be made non-linear (as it is in real life). By this I mean that as you get closer to the target it takes a larger movement to move closer still. You would sense rapid movement to the vicinity of the target and stickiness near the target ... just enough to damp the incessant "targeting overage". Requiring the user to "learn" linear targeting is counter productive to the goal of sales since it causes simple frustration in the user.

EBTX is not a total non-gamer

I beat "Pong" when It came out in my early 20's. It took about $50 worth of quarters and a couple weeks ... but ... I beat the machine. I played that sucker to it's design limits and held it for several minutes. I mean, I played both controllers and bounced the puck back and forth to each paddle till it turned into a streak ... and ... I was ...


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