Thursday, March 25, 2010

great now we gotta defend home wreckers. THANKS regular press.

Yknow we VPAR try to be as fair as possible and believe that truth stands above all things. So when we see national "news" outlets all run the same bogus story over and over, we get just a little pissed. YES Michelle Bombshell is a homewrecker and kind of sleazy for sleeping with a married man, but she is not a Nazi. How are we so sure of this?
Our crack team of investigative journalists tracked down some information that proves this very statement. It just so happens one of our members is friends with a model who took a similar picture with the same photographer. So when the story broke and everyone flipped the fucked out, especially being that its like, a 2 year old photo. and THEN no one bothered to correct the callous charges because apparently, Jesse James cheating with a Nazi is a "better" headline than if he just cheated with a tatted up alt model. Well you can say that member got pissed, because when truth is stamped out for the sake of headlines, we are all fucked.

The photographer whose idea was the Nazi pinups was Robert Alvarado and knowing his photos might cause a stir when he took them YEARS ago, he made this statement:

"This is not an apology, it is a preface.

Please note that I do not seek to glorify war or the actions of the political leaders of the Third Reich. War is a terrible loss for both friend and foe as many survivors will attest.
Growing up right after WWII, I was drawn to the imagery of Third Reich. The images they used, Iron Cross, Swastika and colors made them appealing to me in a graphic way. Sooooo... one of my projects was to see what I could do with those images and colors in a pin-up way. I have talked to a few friends (Jewish also) and everyone has encouraged me in this project. All I really wanted to do was to incorporate those images into my pinup art and see what happened. What am I trying to say... Just what it would be as if the Nazi's did Pin-Up, and sometimes more. And please... I am not a racist. Pushing it a little... yes, hopefully not too much. This is about Art. I mean no harm to anyone. I also realize that some of you are unable to get past the swastika and what it represented. I would just ask that you please try and view this in an artistic way

Again... this is about Art.


Robert Alvarado"


Here are some of Mr. Alvarado's pics in question.







So are all these models Nazis too???

I wonder if any actual nazis got mad at Alvarado for the picture of the nazi girl being taken hostage by the other girl, becauuuuse it could represent them as not being powerful? Beholden to their enemies in WW2? Supporters of lesbianism? OH! or maybe it doesn't mean SHIT.

Since the bogus accusations broke, Mr. Alvarado has stayed quiet on the subject, no doubt because A) he doesn't want any flack and B) Michelle Bombshell tried to throw him under the bus already in an attempt to save face. Though a stupid decision, who can blame her? Everyone is calling her a NAZI.

In closing we are not going to argue whether or not the WP on her legs means white power or wet pussy because we CAN'T verify that, and we aren't going to discuss her facebook as once saying she liked mein kamph as we'd be surprised if she read AT ALL and that given her book list, she's very much about the extreme "image" of a tattoo model. Our point here today was about the photos used to pigeon-hole our perception for no other reason than greedy info-tainment. So remember that before you vilify a person, first pay attention to if what they are being vilified for is actually true because a mob mentality is a sad and stupid thing. Just ask the tea-baggers.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Relevancy does not equal ice cream cones

Its nice to see these pervs passing as artists brought to task. Especially Richardson. The article below forgets to mention another such skeez Merlin Bronques. For a long time they both have been indie-darlings and for no other reason than they wore old clothes and convinced young girls that not only does that make them cool, but that fashion apparently starts with no clothes at all. Lets make one thing clear. Shooting in black and white, simple nudes, or with a polaroid camera doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you lazy. And constantly taking photos of girls nude for a "point" you've made 100 times over, DOESN'T make you cutting edge, it makes you a pervert.

There is nudity in photography. Fashion is about whats new and provocative and both done well can inspire you and take your breath away. But then sleazy a-holes like Richardson, Bronques, and Charney use that as a line to get your shirt on the floor. So though they deserve to be called out, The VPAR asks please don't use this as a railroad against truly inspired fashion photography. Instead remember pervs in fashion is much like what Catholics said about pedos. "The problem isn't that all priests are pedophiles, its that pedophiles are becoming priests."

Skeezy Guy Syndrome: Where Porn Meets Fashion

Early on Friday, Page Six reported that photographer Terry Richardson found himself at the wrong end of a tongue-lashing from supermodel Ria Rasmussen at a March 8 fashion event in Paris.

Rasmussen, upset that she’d been featured in Richardson’s 2004 book “Terryworld” alongside young-looking (and just plain young) women depicted in compromising and sexually implicit positions, told the photographer she found his work “utterly degrading.”

“I told him what you do is completely degrading to women,” she recounted to Page Six. “[I said] I hope you know you only [bleep] girls because you have a camera, lots of fashion contacts and get your pictures in Vogue.”

As far as I’m concerned, Rasmussen is not wrong. Richardson is part of a particularly insulting subset of the fashion industry — a group I like to call: The Skeezy Guy. In an industry known, if not quite lambasted for its overuse of underage girls, The Skeezy Guy is an unfortunately prevalent phenomenon. Generically identified as middle-aged modelling agents who take advantage of impressionable and barely-teenaged girls who are often countries away from home, The Skeezy Guy actually comes in many different forms — one perfect example of which is Terry Richardson.

Richardson is known for his over-saturated, Polaroid-esque and often very provocative images featuring beautiful young things in varying states of undress. (Sometimes props are involved; Richardson seems to have a particular fondness for ice cream cones. Also: bukkake.)

While provocation certainly falls under fashion’s purview, provocation with no purpose — or, worse yet, at the expense of dignity — is just cheap and often offensive.

Richardson’s styling as well as his choice of subject, which Rasmussen describes as “girls who appear underage, abused, look like heroin addicts,” are becoming more and more ubiquitous. The most obvious doppelganger is, of course, American Apparel, whose founder Dov Charney just so happens to bear an eerie resemblance to Richardson.


This thing looks like that thing: Terry Richardson and Dov Charney

American Apparel’s in-house advertising team (art-directed, naturally, by Charney) equally blurs the line between pornography and fashion photography — so much so that a recent ad was banned in Britain for “sexualizing a child.” The “child” was, in fact, a 23-year-old model, but it was no accident that she looked younger than 16.

Charney, who at one point faced more than five sexual harrassment lawsuits in a three-year period, often argues that he’s empowering women and celebrating their sexuality. (“Some of us love sluts,” he once claimed during a legal deposition.) Richardson does the same. And these two are not alone. Joining them in my personal Skeevy Guy Hall of Fame is Purple magazine editor Olivier Zahm.

Zahm, who also runs the mag’s blog Purple Diary, often features decidedly NSFW images of women flashing their chests or rolling around an office space on the site. As for why, Zahm recently explained the inspiration for Purple Diary to Style.com:

To me love and sex is the most beautiful thing on earth, you know. It’s more beautiful than a landscape, so I love to keep pictures of the girls in these private moments because they are giving you the most beautiful side of themselves. It’s like a gift from God. It’s beautiful. I’m not New Age, I’m not mystical, I just really love it, and it’s so beautiful to capture with a camera that I really want to share that, you know…And also, Purple is a lifestyle. With my magazine, what I want to do is personally to be more free, and I want people to be more free, to open their possibility of contact, of sex, of love. I want that. This is important to me. I consider that Purple is a free lifestyle. Not in a stupid way, not in a childish or immature way, in a mature way now because I’m 45, 46. So the blog is also this vocation to see what constructs a lifestyle, to see what could be. If my life would be perfect, it would look like the Purple Diary.

While it’s wonderful that these men are so madly in love with women, I just can’t help but wish they’d want to celebrate more than just the female form — or, barring that, celebrate it in a less degrading way.

Unfortunately, one of the key attributes of The Skeezy Guy seems to be cowardice. When confronted by Rasmussen’s ire, Richardson chose to just run away. The next day, Rasmussen’s agency received phone calls from the spurned photographer claiming he’d been slandered in front of his “clients.” As Rasmussen put it, “It was the most cowardly thing I have ever seen.”

But the fault (and cowardice) doesn’t only lie with these men; until the rest of the industry realizes that blow jobs, though perhaps effective, aren’t necessarily the best way to sell products, men like Richardson, Charney, and Zahm will always have a home in fashion.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WoW is a drug? wow...

18 days since the last post?! Unforgivable. This will be rectified immediately. As we speak Action Rangers responsible are being discharged, their badges taken, their jetpacks confiscated, and their 20% discount at Chipotle revoked. Our apologies. Now back to work.

An article ran recently about how video game developers are no longer striving towards making the best game possible, but making the most addictive game possible. It can come off as almost blasphemous in our circles, but it WILL make you uncomfortable.

5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted


So, the headlines say somebody else has died due to video game addiction. Yes, it's Korea again.

What the hell? Look, I'm not saying video games are heroin. I totally get that the victims had other shit going on in their lives. But, half of you reading this know a World of Warcraft addict and experts say video game addiction is a thing. So here's the big question: Are some games intentionally designed to keep you compulsively playing, even when you're not enjoying it?

Oh, hell yes. And their methods are downright creepy.

#5.
Putting You in a Skinner Box

If you've ever been addicted to a game or known someone who was, this article is really freaking disturbing. It's written by a games researcher at Microsoft on how to make video games that hook players, whether they like it or not. He has a doctorate in behavioral and brain sciences. Quote:

"Each contingency is an arrangement of time, activity, and reward, and there are an infinite number of ways these elements can be combined to produce the pattern of activity you want from your players."

Notice his article does not contain the words "fun" or "enjoyment." That's not his field. Instead it's "the pattern of activity you want."


"...at this point, younger gamers will raise their arms above their head, leaving them vulnerable."

His theories are based around the work of BF Skinner, who discovered you could control behavior by training subjects with simple stimulus and reward. He invented the "Skinner Box," a cage containing a small animal that, for instance, presses a lever to get food pellets. Now, I'm not saying this guy at Microsoft sees gamers as a bunch of rats in a Skinner box. I'm just saying that he illustrates his theory of game design using pictures of rats in a Skinner box.

This sort of thing caused games researcher Nick Yee to once call Everquest a "Virtual Skinner Box."

So What's The Problem?

Gaming has changed. It used to be that once they sold us a $50 game, they didn't particularly care how long we played. The big thing was making sure we liked it enough to buy the next one. But the industry is moving toward subscription-based games like MMO's that need the subject to keep playing--and paying--until the sun goes supernova.

Now, there's no way they can create enough exploration or story to keep you playing for thousands of hours, so they had to change the mechanics of the game, so players would instead keep doing the same actions over and over and over, whether they liked it or not. So game developers turned to Skinner's techniques.

This is a big source of controversy in the world of game design right now. Braid creator Jonathan Blow said Skinnerian game mechanics are a form of "exploitation." It's not that these games can't be fun. But they're designed to keep gamers subscribing during the periods when it's not fun, locking them into a repetitive slog using Skinner's manipulative system of carefully scheduled rewards.

Why would this work, when the "rewards" are just digital objects that don't actually exist? Well...

#4.
Creating Virtual Food Pellets For You To Eat

Most addiction-based game elements are based on this fact:

Your brain treats items and goods in the video game world as if they are real. Because they are.

People scoff at this idea all the time ("You spent all that time working for a sword that doesn't even exist?") and those people are stupid. If it takes time, effort and skill to obtain an item, that item has value, whether it's made of diamonds, binary code or beef jerky.


I have easily 500 hours in Zelda bottles.

That's why the highest court in South Korea ruled that virtual goods are to be legally treated the same as real goods. And virtual goods are now a $5 billion industry worldwide.

There's nothing crazy about it. After all, people pay thousands of dollars for diamonds, even though diamonds do nothing but look pretty. A video game suit of armor looks pretty and protects you from video game orcs. In both cases you're paying for an idea.


Happy anniversary, honey.

So What's The Problem?

Of course, virtually every game of the last 25 years has included items you can collect in the course of defeating the game--there's nothing new or evil about that. But because gamers regard in-game items as real and valuable on their own, addiction-based games send you running around endlessly collecting them even if they have nothing to do with the game's objective.

It is very much intentional on the developers' part, an appeal to our natural hoarding and gathering instincts, collecting for the sake of collecting. It works, too, just ask the guy who kept collecting items even while naked boobies sat just feet away. Boobies.

As the article from the Microsoft guy proves, developers know they're using these objects as pellets in a Skinner box. At that point it's all about...

#3.
Making You Press the Lever

So picture the rat in his box. Or, since I'm one of these gamers and don't like to think of myself as a rat, picture an adorable hamster. Maybe he can talk, and is voiced by Chris Rock.


If you want to make him press the lever as fast as possible, how would you do it? Not by giving him a pellet with every press--he'll soon relax, knowing the pellets are there when he needs them. No, the best way is to set up the machine so that it drops the pellets at random intervals of lever pressing. He'll soon start pumping that thing as fast as he can. Experiments prove it.


See? Proof.

They call these "Variable Ratio Rewards" in Skinner land and this is the reason many enemies "drop" valuable items totally at random in WoW. This is addictive in exactly the same way a slot machine is addictive. You can't quit now because the very next one could be a winner. Or the next. Or the next.


"Holy shit! We almost won."

The Chinese MMO ZT Online has the most devious implementation of this I've ever seen. The game is full of these treasure chests that may or may not contain a random item and to open them, you need a key. How do you get the keys? Why, you buy them with real-world money, of course. Like coins in a slot machine.

Wait, that's not the best part. ZT Online does something even the casinos never dreamed up: They award a special item at the end of the day to the player who opens the most chests.


And that's hardly the most ridiculous aspect of the game.

Now, in addition to the gambling element, you have thousands of players in competition with each other, to see who can be the most obsessive about opening the chests. One woman tells of how she spent her entire evening opening chests--over a thousand--to try to win the daily prize.

She didn't. There was always someone else more obsessed.

So What's The Problem?

Are you picturing her sitting there, watching her little character in front of the chest, clicking dialogue boxes over and over, watching the same animation over and over, for hour after hour?

If you didn't know any better, you'd think she had a crippling mental illness. How could she possibly get from her rational self to that Rain Man-esque compulsion?

BF Skinner knew. He called that training process "shaping." Little rewards, step by step, like links in a chain. In WoW you decide you want the super cool Tier 10 armor. You need five separate pieces. To get the full set, you need more than 400 Frost Emblems, which are earned a couple at a time, from certain enemies. Then you need to upgrade each piece of armor with Marks of Sanctification. Then again with Heroic Marks of Sanctification. To get all that you must re-run repetitive missions and sit, clicking your mouse, for days and days and days. Boobies be damned.

Once it gets to that point, can you even call that activity a "game" anymore? It's more like scratching a rash. And it gets worse...


Keeping You Pressing It... Forever

Now, the big difference between our Skinner box hamster and a real human is that we humans can get our pellets elsewhere. If a game really was just nothing but clicking a box for random rewards, we'd eventually drop it to play some other game. Humans need a long-term goal to keep us going, and the world of addictive gaming has got this down to a science. Techniques include...

Easing Them In:

First, set up the "pellets" so that they come fast at first, and then slower and slower as time goes on. This is why they make it very easy to earn rewards (or level up) in the beginning of an MMO, but then the time and effort between levels increases exponentially. Once the gamer has experienced the rush of leveling up early, the delayed gratification actually increases the pleasure of the later levels. That video game behavior expert at Microsoft found that gamers play more and more frantically as they approach a new level.

Eliminating Stopping Points:

The easiest way is to just put save points far apart, or engage the player in long missions (like WoW raids) that, once started, are difficult to get out of without losing progress.

But that can be frustrating for gamers, so you can take the opposite approach of a game like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, where you make the levels really short so it's like eating potato chips. They're so small on their own that it doesn't take much convincing to get the player to grab another one, and soon they've eaten the whole bag.


Somewhere in that bag is an angry dinosaur and a kidnapped princess.

By the way, this is the same reason a person who wouldn't normally read a 3,000-word article on the Internet will happily read it if it's split up into list form. Are you ignoring boobies to read this? I've done my job!

Play It Or Lose It:

This is the real dick move. Why reward the hamster for pressing the lever? Why not simply set it up so that when he fails to press it, we punish him?

Behaviorists call this "avoidance." They set the cage up so that it gives the animal an electric shock every 30 seconds unless it hits the lever. It learns very very fast to stay on the lever, all the time, hitting it over and over. Forever.


"Get back to Excitebike!"

Why is your mom obsessively harvesting her crops in Farmville? Because they wither and rot if she doesn't. In Ultima Online, your house or castle would start to decay if you didn't return to it regularly. In Animal Crossing, the town grows over with weeds and your virtual house becomes infested with cockroaches if you don't log in often enough. It's the crown jewel of game programming douchebaggery--keep the player clicking and clicking and clicking just to avoid losing the stuff they worked so hard to get.

All Of the Above:

Each of those techniques has a downside and to get the ultimate addictive game, you combine as many as possible, along with the "random drop" gambling element mentioned before (count how many of these techniques are in WoW). They get the hamster running back and forth from one lever to another to another.


If the levers are far away, they may drive their adorable cars from one lever to another.

So What's The Problem?

We asked earlier if the item collection via obsessive clicking could be called a "game." So that raises the question: What is a game?

Well, we humans play games because there is a basic satisfaction in mastering a skill, even if it's a pointless one in terms of our overall life goals. It helps us develop our brains (especially as children) and to test ourselves without serious consequences if we fail. This is why our brains reward us with the sensation we call "fun" when we do it. Hell, even dolphins do it:

This is why I haven't included games like Guitar Hero in this article. They're addictive, sure, but in a way everybody understands. It's perfectly natural to enjoy getting good at something. Likewise, competitive games like Modern Warfare 2 are just sports for people who lack athleticism. There's no mystery there; everybody likes to win.

But these "hit the lever until you pass out from starvation" gaming elements stray into a different area completely. As others have pointed out, the point is to keep you playing long after you've mastered the skills, long after you've wrung the last real novel experience from it. You can't come up with a definition of "fun" that encompasses the activity of clicking a picture of a treasure chest with your mouse a thousand times.

This is why some writers blasted Blizzard when WoW introduced a new "achievement" system a couple of years ago. These are rewards tied to performing random pointless tasks, over and over again (such as, fishing until you catch a thousand fish). No new content, no element of practice, or discovery, or mastery was included. Just a virtual treadmill.


Or a hamster wheel.

Of course, game developers (and various commenters, I'm sure) would correctly point out that nobody is making the players do it. Why would humans voluntarily put themselves in laboratory hamster mode? Well, it's all about...

#1.
Getting You To Call the Skinner Box Home

Do you like your job?

Considering half of you are reading this at work, I'm going to guess no. And that brings us to the one thing that makes gaming addiction--and addiction in general--so incredibly hard to beat.

As shocking as this sounds, a whole lot of the "guy who failed all of his classes because he was playing WoW all the time" horror stories are really just about a dude who simply didn't like his classes very much. This was never some dystopian mind control scheme by Blizzard. The games just filled a void.

Why do so many of us have that void? Because according to everything expert Malcolm Gladwell, to be satisfied with your job you need three things, and I bet most of you don't even have two of them:

Autonomy (that is, you have some say in what you do day to day);

Complexity (so it's not mind-numbing repetition);

Connection Between Effort and Reward (i.e. you actually see the awesome results of your hard work).


Notice that pants are not necessary for job satisfaction.

Most people, particularly in the young gamer demographics, don't have this in their jobs or in any aspect of their everyday lives. But the most addictive video games are specifically geared to give us all three... or at least the illusion of all three.

Autonomy:

You pick your quests, or which Farmville crops to plant. Hell, you even pick your own body, species and talents.


Annoying your Facebook friends with updates is a really annoying talent.

Complexity:

Players will do monotonous grinding specifically because it doesn't feel like grinding. Remember the complicated Tier Armor/Frost Emblem dance that kept our gamer clicking earlier.

Connection Between Effort and Reward:

This is the big one. When you level up in WoW a goddamned plume of golden light shoots out of your body.

This is what most of us don't get in everyday life--quick, tangible rewards. It's less about instant gratification and more about a freaking sense of accomplishment. How much harder would we work at the office if we got this, and could measure our progress toward it? And if the light shot from our crotch?

The beauty of it is it lets games use the tedium to their advantage. As we discussed elsewhere, there's a "work to earn the right to play" aspect of World of Warcraft, where you grind or "farm" for gold for the right to do the cool stuff later. The tedious nature of the farming actually adds to the sense of accomplishment later. And it also helps squash any sense of guilt you might have had about neglecting school, work or household chores to play the game. After all, you did your chores--the 12 hours you spent farming for gold last Tuesday was less fun than mowing the fucking lawn. Now it's time for fun.

So What's The Problem?

Video game designer Erin Hoffman said it perfectly: "Addiction is not about what you DO, but what you DON'T DO because of the replacement of the addictive behavior." She was talking about how the attraction of a simple flash game like Bejeweled depends entirely on how badly you want to avoid doing the work you have open in the other window.


Wait, what was I saying again?

The terrible truth is that a whole lot of us begged for a Skinner Box we could crawl into, because the real world's system of rewards is so much more slow and cruel than we expected it to be. In that, gaming is no different from other forms of mental escape, from sports fandom to moonshine.


Heroin: It's pretty much WoW in a syringe.

The danger lies in the fact that these games have become so incredibly efficient at delivering the sense of accomplishment that people used to get from their education or career. We're not saying gaming will ruin the world, or that gaming addiction will be a scourge on youth the way crack ruined the inner cities in the 90s. But we may wind up with a generation of dudes working at Starbucks when they had the brains and talent for so much more. They're dissatisfied with their lives because they wasted their 20s playing video games, and will escape their dissatisfaction by playing more video games. Rinse, repeat.

And let's face it; if you think WoW is addictive, wait until you see the games they're making 10 years from now. They're only getting better at what they do.