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he original Deus Ex, released at the turn
of the millennium, blew me away. Sure,
the Canberra-produced System Shock 2
successfully married the core elements of a
role-play game to a first-person shooter a year
earlier, but I hadn’t heard of that game back
then. (The developers of System Shock 2
would go on to create BioShock, Canberra’s
greatest claim to video game development
fame.)
Enough history – how does it play? Great.
Human Revolution (also labelled Dues Ex 3
for its position in the release schedule)
channels much of the original, while adding
all the elements you would expect of a 2011
title.
Single-player first-person shooter fans
beware, this is not a blast, save and repeat
title on rails. Open-world sandbox fans should
heed a similar warning, nor is it an explore,
do-what-you-want kind of game.
Human Revolution splits the difference.
Game play is heavily entrenched in the
plot. Completing a linear series of missions
advances the game, but each of those missions
can be approached in multiple ways. Side
quests and randomly hidden shops and items
offer enough incentive to deviate from the task
at hand and “have a look around”, but only in
a limited fashion.
The selling point of Human Revolution lies
in the competent marriage of game play, design,
pace and, most of all, plot. This game tells a
story. It’s a good story and the player has ample
opportunity to study and influence the narrative.
A shallow RPG tree allows the player to
customise the protagonist to their favourite
play style, from stealth to head-on firefights
with not much in between. The marketing
promotes “hacking” objects and being nice
to non-player characters as viable play styles,
but both seem to support stealth and blazing
cannons, rather than being true alternatives.
Human Revolution is the first in a run
of A-list titles due to release over the next
few months. It sets a high benchmark and
if what’s to come matches up, we are set in
for a rare season of quality releases. Highly
recommended.
0g;gZSa>SbS`a]\
:
ast Monday, a number of News
Corporation outfits carried
articles on the issue of online
piracy, a favoured topic of mine. The
thrust of the coverage centred on a
new study by the Intellectual Property
Awareness Foundation.
I was a bit miffed News Corp
journalists appeared to have been
given early access to the study.
A media release from the IPAF
trumpeting the findings was not sent
to The Canberra Times until 5am,
Monday morning.
Either the News Corp crew
worked extremely fast (which is
unlikely, as newspapers are put to
bed before midnight) or they had
been given early access, along with
interviews with foundation staff and
some entertainment industry talent.
This in itself is nothing unusual.
Fairfax’s Philip Dorling dined out
for many months on exclusive access
to WikiLeaks cables until someone
leaked the lot.
Last Monday, The Australian ran
a full-court press in print and online
dubbed “Piracy, the disease that’s
crippling our creative industries”,
comprising a number of articles
from various angles, all attacking
the scourge of online file sharing.
Articles also appeared in News Corp
tabloids The Adelaide Advertiser and
The Daily Telegraph.
That’s odd, I thought. The
avalanche of coverage seemed to
disproportionately reference the
new study. Would a media outlet
co-operate with a lobby group to
generate mass coverage of a topic, I
wondered.
Keen to have a look at the study
and possibly pitch it to my chief-of-
staff, I checked the media contacts on
the IPAF release – Chief Executive
Gail Grant and Director of Public
Relations Stephen Jenner. The second
name caught my eye. A few weeks
earlier I had unsuccessfully tried
to contact Jenner and his colleague
Neil Gane as I sought comment on
the WikiLeaks AFACT, or Australian
Federation Against Copyright Theft,
cable (which revealed the prime
mover behind the case put by AFACT
against internet service provider
iiNet, over the alleged copyright
infringement over file-sharing
networks by iiNet’s customers, was in
fact the Motion Picture Association
of America). Jenner and Gane
are spokesmen for AFACT. (And,
according to social networking site
LinkedIn, Jenner is also a consultant
for the Motion Picture Association.)
Gane’s name has been supplied
to me as a spokesman for the Digital
Entertainment Alliance Australia,
another lobby group hard to contact.
The DEAA maintains no web
presence, or listed phone number for
that matter, but seems to have the
attention of the Federal Attorney-
General’s Department regardless.
From the outside, AFACT, IPAF
and the DEAA appear to share staff
interchangeably, and all have the
same agenda, lobbying on behalf of
copyright industries. They also share
members. One of those members is
Fox, a subsidiary of News Corp.
I rang Jenner and was surprised
to get through. After deflecting an
AFACT-related query, he politely put
me onto IPAF chief executive Gail
Grant, who I interviewed about the
study.
The interview went badly,
stalling over terminology. Grant
nailed her talking points and batted
aside any queries relating to the
use of the term “copyright theft”,
IPAF’s relationship to AFACT, and
the lobbying of internet service
providers to perform some sort of
cyber policing role. She did confirm
Jenner divided his time between her
organisation and AFACT.
I harboured serious reservations
about the study Grant was relying
on, unlike my fellow journalists
at News Corp who had reported it
uncritically. Wondering whether to
run the story or not, I contacted a
journalist and expert in the field,
“Ernesto” of TorrentFreak fame.
Ernesto has successfully
unravelled these kinds of stories in
the past and has a skill for exposing
shoddy and biased research. Rather
than repeating suspect claims and
giving publicity to a lobby group
with deep pockets and friendly media
contacts, I decided to drop the story.
Ernesto didn’t and TorrentFreak
ran a critical exposé of the IPAF
research.
But the story behind the stories,
both those that appeared in News
Corp media and TorrentFreak’s
balancing rebuttal, stayed with
me, as did a series of worrying
questions. Are AFACT, the DEAA
and IPAF being co-ordinated by
the same group of people? Are
these people being directed by
the Motion Picture Association of
America, as the WikiLeaks cable
suggested? Is the Federal Attorney-
General’s Department aware of these
relationships, if they exist?
What stuck with me most was
a similar concern to one uttered
recently by Australian Greens leader
Senator Bob Brown. Did a group
of journalists put together a press
campaign based on a biased study
supplied by a lobby group that
represents their own employer?
The Attorney-General’s
Department has invited AFACT, the
DEAA and the Australian Content
Industry Group (which shares a
spokesman, Michael Salmon, with
the DEAA) and a couple of large
internet service providers to discuss
potential changes to Australia’s
communications law. The meeting
takes place on Friday.
When our federal lawyers host
these lobby groups at the end of the
week, I hope they cast a more critical
eye over any research presented
than certain media outlets did. I also
hope they are able to work out which
person in the room represents the
ACIG, AFACT, DEAA, IPAF, MPA,
MPAA or all of the above.
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