Happy 20th Sega Genesis!

Today’s the 20th Anniversary for the Sega Genesis! The days of blast processing, doing what Nintendon’t, and rising from your grave are back again among the die hard fans that still remember the 16-bit wars and the games that they had spawned. The Genesis was the platform of choice for many players during the day, especially thanks to a blitzkrieg of savvy marketing moves and third-party titles…and some of the most entertaining commercials to ever come out in a battle between consoles, the kind that aren’t seen today because someone might get their feelings hurt. With lawyers.

Sega would also use the Genesis to pioneer several important advances that, while they may not have been as successful as Sega had hoped at the time, went on to help pave the way for the next generation on. Backwards compatibility with the Master System was handled with a module that snapped on top of the system, a CD ROM drive was made available for it to support the new medium, and the Sega MegaNet in Japan was arguably the first to allow multiplayer over consoles.

So if you still have a Genesis, or one of Sega’s Genesis compilations, take some time out to enjoy some old school fun. SEGA!!!

The geeks have taken over

Maybe it’s just the ComicCon hype that’s in the news this week, but it seems increasingly evident to this writer that the geeks have taken over American culture.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although journalists probably fit in more with the “dork” or “nerd” subgroups than the geek demographic. But the announcement that “Spider-Man” and “Evil Dead” director Sam Raimi will direct a movie based on the “World of Warcraft” universe seems to confirm the geek ascendancy.

Geek culture has taken many forms in post-WWII America. “Star Trek.” “Star Wars.” Dungeons and Dragons. Comic books. Science fiction film and novels. What they all have in common is a fascination with the amazing and fantastical, whether the subjects of the stories are rooted in speculative science or the realms of myth.

Fans of geek culture, generally speaking, enjoy immersing themselves in the imaginary worlds created by writers as varied as J.R.R. Tolkien, Stan Lee and Alan Moore, and for several years, endured the scorn of cooler Americans.

But things have changed. Many of the biggest – and best – movies of the decade have been aimed at the geek demographic. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the first fantasy film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and the first two “Spider-Man” films, the most recent pair of Batman movies and “Iron Man” were all excellent.

Beyond the worlds of cinema, the Harry Potter books (rumor has it the film adaptations are also popular) and television series like “Lost” and “Heroes” have gained popularity. Video games are big business and even those who would never play “World of Warcraft” know what that the game exists.

Somewhere along the line, geek became cool.

It’s this writers view is that somewhere on the timeline was 1999, when “The Matrix” hit theaters. A lot of people didn’t like the sequels – I thought the second made no sense and didn’t bother to see the third – but the first edition of the trilogy featured a band of cool, black-clad rebels who had access to big guns, advanced technology and knew kung fu.

The movie offered nothing less than a new geek archetype. The geeks were no longer the men or women who understood computers and had a large collection of X-Men back issues, the geeks were mankind’s last hope, and they looked awesome in that role.

Compare “The Matrix” to another 1999 film, “Star Wars: Episode IV: The Phantom Menace.” On the surface, both are geek fare with mainstream appeal, but “The Phantom Menace” was old geek. Where “The Matrix” was slick, rebellious and forward-looking, “The Phantom Menace” was comparatively slow, silly (Jar Jar Binks) and chock full of stilted dialogue.

I liked “The Phantom Menace” more than “The Matrix” when they were released, but that’s because I grew up watching Star Wars movies and have never been a Keanu Reeves fan. But in retrospect, “The Phantom Menace” didn’t have much for people who were not young kids or already fans of the franchise. “The Matrix” was a cultural bridgehead that offered the red pill of geek culture to mainstream society.

Ten years later, a movie based on “World of Warcraft” is in the works. This very year has already seen such cinematic releases as “The Watchmen,” “Terminator Salvation” and “Transformers 2: Rise of the Fallen.” “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” is still waiting to be released.

The geeks have taken over.

Modern Warfare 2 to offer night vision goggles

In the latest example of how war is awesome for those who don’t actually have to face kill-or-be-killed situations, the Internets are abuzz with reports that gamers will be able to unpack working night vision goggles with the “Prestige Edition” of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Here is but one example of the coverage.

Gamers will have to wait to see how functional these goggles really are. But this writer remembers that during Desert Storm, war correspondents highlighted the actual U.S. military’s possession of night vision goggles as a major technological advantage against the Iraqi army.

I don’t know if this promotion is a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing, but it seems kind of weird that this kind of technology is now being given away to fake soldiers fighting a polygon war.

Regardless, the rules of marketing dictate that Modern Warfare 3 or another future combat-themed video game will have to raise the bar even higher. Short of creating a game that actually allows players to strike enemy terrorists from the comfort of their own homes, perhaps it could be possible to sell a SpecOps edition that gives players field-ready equipment.

This writer and fellow blogger Redmond Carolipio suggest that video game makers package a working firearm, a cell phone with contacts to human intelligence sources, fake passports and a phrase book that would enable players to participate in their own covert action. C’mon video game companies, America needs you.