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There's been a lot of chatter on the Freeh report about the conspiracy of silence at Penn State, especially as regards Joe Paterno's role in covering up Jerry Sandusky's actions over the past 14 years. A lot of talking heads are calling for PSU to receive the "death penalty"--being forced by the NCAA to drop football. I think that's too harsh because it punishes the current PSU players for something they had no role in. It also doesn't hurt those who were directly involved. Three of those, the past president, vice president, and athletic director will probably face prison time for their silence and their lies to the grand jury. Paterno, however, is forever beyond any earthly justice.

Paterno's legacy, though, is not beyond the "justice" of society. Right now, Paterno is the winningest coach in NCAA history. That is a black mark on the NCAA's record books. The solution, then, is simple. Vacate Penn State's wins since 1998. Current PSU players are not adversely affected. PSU continues to play football (which helps fund the university's other programs). And Joe Paterno is no longer listed in the record books, which is fitting because of the monstrous ring of secrecy he led.

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Forgive me while I talk about a real life game for a bit, rather than video games.

"The NCAA was founded in 1906 to protect young people from the dangerous and exploitive athletics practices of the time.

The rugged nature of early-day football, typified by mass formations and gang tackling, resulted in numerous injuries and deaths and prompted many college and universities to discontinue the sport. In many places, college football was run by student groups that often hired players and allowed them to compete as non-students. Common sentiment among the public was that college football should be reformed or abolished.

President Theodore Roosevelt summoned college athletics leaders to two White House conferences to encourage reforms. In early December 1905, Chancellor Henry M. MacCracken of New York University convened a meeting of 13 institutions to initiate changes in football playing rules. At a subsequent meeting December 28 in New York City, 62 colleges and universities became charter members of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS)."

The above is from the official history of the NCAA as posted on their Web site[1].

A little over 100 years ago, American football was so dangerous, the President of the United States stepped in and made those in charge adopt new rules to protect player safety. In the wake of the New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal[2], many talking-head ex-football players keep telling us non-football-playing folks we "just don't get it." This is the culture of the NFL, they say. Defensive players are coached to take out the other team's star players. Adding a little money to sweeten the pot may sound thuggish, but it isn't really needed. Defensive players are all just head-hunters anyway and we should accept it as a part of football.

Well, let's read between the lines, shall we?

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With the release of Kingdoms of Amalur, many comparisons are being drawn between that game and Skyrim. These comparisons are inherently unfair to both games. While both are large, expansive RPGs, they are extraordinarily different.

Wolf attack!Skyrim is the latest in a long line of open world, sandbox, first-person RPGs from Bethesda. You can go through the game without touching the main quest. You can level up doing nothing but crafting. You can even play the game without killing anything.

Kingdoms of Amalur is a prototypical, linear Action-RPG. It is, in fact, what Dungeon Siege III should have been. (Are you paying attention, Obsidian?) It's a gorgeous game, but it isn't trying to be the realistic window into an alternate universe that Skyrim attempts (and mostly succeeds).

The biggest comment I'm continually seeing, in reviews, in opinion pieces, and in forum threads, is that Amalur's combat is "better" than Skyrim's. I disagree. Wholeheartedly.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is 2011's game of the year. It might be the game of the past decade. It certainly is engaging, engrossing and encroaching...on my time with other games. Since picking up Skyrim, I've logged in almost 200 hours on the game (not to mention all the hours spent writing the guide for the game). If I were to make a top ten games list for 2011, Skyrim would be all ten games.

Yes, it's that good. And, yes, it's at least ten different games. (You can be a dragon-hunting warrior. Or crime kingpin of the entire country. Or a blacksmith. Or a miner. Or a potion-brewer. Or...or...or...)

So while I'm engrossed in Skyrim, other games languish on my shelf. Unplayed. Lonely. Forgotten.

OK, not forgotten. I keep looking at them, but I can't take Skyrim out of the PS3. Not yet, anyway. Here are ten games languishing on my shelf while I play Skyrim, in reverse order by their Metacritic score...

10) White Knight Chronicles

While this title hit the States almost two years ago, it only hit my shelf in one of GameStop's Buy-2-Get-1-Free used game sales during the holidays. While I'm not normally big on Japanese-style RPGs, this one looks interesting (if a bit flawed, based on reviews). It will probably continue to hang around a while until I get through some of the games higher on this list.

9) DC Universe Online

I started up a DCUO character right after the game went free-to-play. I even got through the tutorial mission and then got a little lost. I was trying to figure out what to do next when Skyrim hit. It's kind of a shame, really. Much as I love comic book superheroes, this game, in the short time I spent with it, seemed stilted and flat. I probably will only mess around with it here and there—but not until Skyrim has been thoroughly beaten.

8) Dragon Age: Origins Awakening

I know this add-on to the original Dragon Age has been around a while. And I actually bought it when it was new...but, then, never completely finished it. I've taken two different DA:O characters partway through, but never managed to finish. And, once Dragon Age 2 came out, I found DA:O's gameplay to be somewhat lackluster compared to its younger sibling. Still, I need to fully finish DA:O, which includes finishing this expansion as well as all the DLC.

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PlayStation Network is coming back online. The outage has been an annoyance to me, but not fatal. I don't play any online-only or primarily-online games. Having thus admitted my bias, let me say everyone is blowing this WAY out of proportion. Corporate databases get hacked all the time and credit card numbers get stolen all the time.

First, your name and address might have been "stolen." It's hard to call copying public information that's in the phone book and about 100 other places "theft."

Second, your credit card number, though encrypted, might have been stolen. If you don't want your CC number stolen, don't use credit cards. I've had mine stolen before. The bank called me as soon as they detected a possibly fraudulent charge and I verified I had not made that charge and the bank canceled the number and sent me new cards. Annoying, yes. Costly, no. If you are using credit, online or offline, your credit is always at risk. Bank with a reputable company that offers fraud detection. Keep on eye on your charges at all time (easily done with an online account). If you're really paranoid, don't use credit, use cash to buy gift cards and use those.

Third, your email address and password may be at risk. This is actually the most damaging information in the PSN database, and for one simple reason—most people use the same email address or username and password for every online account they have. If that's you, then maybe we should all blame you? See, blaming the victim is not the answer.

Blaming Sony is like blaming the victim of a robbery because they didn't use strong enough deadbolts on their doors or put iron bars over their windows. Sony is also being blamed for "inviting" the attacks by suing George Hotz. Again, that's like blaming an assault victim because he insulted his attacker. Retaliation is not self-defense and what the hackers attacking Sony have done is criminal. They are the only ones to blame, not Sony.

Was this a problem? Yes. Is Sony to blame? No more than any other victim of a crime. All of us who subscribe to PSN are also victims. I hope they catch the jerks who did this. Then we can watch the haters hate on them.

I'll buy the popcorn.

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Used game rack in a storeI'm a pirate. No, not the kind that sails the seven seas or posts games on the Internet. No, I buy used games. And, for that, I'm considered no better than a pirate by game publishers and industry pundits alike (1). A great many analogies are bandied about during these discussions (including the well-worn and never-fitting car analogies), but no one seems to focus on the one market that is most like games: DVDs. Like games, DVDs can be resold and retain their intrinsic value (a used DVD is no different in quality from a new DVD), yet the used DVD market is almost non-existent. Why?

Price.

The used game market is large because new games cost way too much. I can buy three new games for $60 each for a total cost of $180. Or, I can buy the same three games used for $55 each, less a 10% discount for having a Gamestop Rewards card and during a Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale and spend a total of $100 for the three games. That's a BIG difference in price.

Price, inevitably, is what drives almost every game purchase I make. I don't buy new or used based on preference, only on price. When Gamestop marked down Batman: Arkham Asylum to $20, I bought a brand new copy. During Target's after-Thanksgiving sale, I grabbed shrink-wrapped new copies of Final Fantasy XIII & Killzone 2 for less than $20 each. From Amazon.com in the week after Thanksgiving, I purchased heavily marked-down copies of NFS Hot Pursuit and Uncharted 2 GotY. The "problem" I have with buying new games is not their newness, but their price.

When I do plunk down the $50 or $60 for a new game hot off the presses, I usually finance it by trading in games I no longer play (2). This is an oft-overlooked dynamic, the used game market not only provides a method of buying games for less money, it also offers consumers the ability to decrease the cost of buying new games. The used game niche, then, is an integral part of the overall gaming market.