In LA they call this "June Gloom," but I don't care. It's Monday morning at 7am and I'm ready for E3.

Well, not quite READY...talk to anyone who has covered the show and they'll ll tell you that there's always a layer of unknown attached with this conference. But you roll with it, you make things work, and usually you make it through alive.

First up: The Microsoft press conference, which kicks off at around 10:300am PST. Be sure to check right here for up-to-date breaking news and impressions. I'll be feeding them as long as I can stay awake and as long as the battery on this laptop still has life in it.

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As good as "Fallout 3" is -- I've invested more than 65 hours! -- it wasn't a perfect game, a statement even "Fallout 3" executive producer Todd Howard would agree with, so we lined up three common criticisms gamers have leveled against his post-apocalyptic RPG to find out if he agreed with them. Read More...

I don't have anything hanging from my DS Lite, but my girlfriend does (a random Pokemon), and I've started to notice that most female DS owners do as well.

While taking in an outdoor screening of sci-fi classic "It Came From Outer Space" in Dolores Park, I snapped a shot of two women with items dangling from their DS. One of them was a character from "Animal Crossing."

Maybe it's just a San Francisco thing, but I doubt it. Female (or male!) MTV Multiplayer readers, what items do you have dangling from your DS?

"Sweding -- Re-making something from scratch using whatever you can get your hands on."

The term was developed by director Michael Gondry for his film "Be Kind Rewind." I'm reminded of it because "Be Kind Rewind" hits stores this week on DVD.

I've been wondering what the video game equivalent of sweding is. Is it machinima? Games are conceived, created and executed virtually; it makes sense gamers would respond using those same virtual worlds.

Though I do have a confession. I sweded several games as a kid. I can't believe I'm admitting this in a public venue. Hint: it has to do with "Jet Set Radio"

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Meet Aaron "coldraccoon" Mesec, an 18-year-old Xbox 360 owner from Murrieta, California. He's a gamerscore cheater.

He's a former cheater -- or so he now claims to MTV Multiplayer.

Mesec was one of the gamers caught during Microsoft's attempt last week to reign in gamerscore cheaters. Microsoft won't say how many people have, like Mesec, been branded with a "Cheater" tag, had their questionable Achievements stripped and their gamescores re-set. But I've heard that the number of users whose gamerscores were reset wasn't more than a few handfuls. The punishment is meant as a message to others.

And it appears to have worked on Mesec. "The cheating days are over for me. I just want to kick back and enjoy gaming again," he told us over the weekend.

If that's true, why did he start cheating in the first place?

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We finally have real proof games have gone mainstream: designers in the tabloids.

Ex-Naughty Dog president Jason Rubin was spotted in Star Magazine by none other than former "God of War" designer Derek Daniels, while making a stop here in San Francisco.

The article reads:

"Just three days after confirming she had split with her rocker-fiancée Benji Madden, Sophie Monk was spotted having brunch with video game designer Jason Rubin!" The Aussie singer, 28, and Jason "looked like they were having a good time" while eating al fresco at Griddle Café in West Hollywood on Feb 15., an eyewitness tells Star. 'It looked like a date.'"

What's next? Will Wright spotted buying coffee at Starbucks? See the article for yourself by reading on.

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Kingdom Hearts IIThere were only a couple of folks who understood why I've continued to play through "Kingdom Hearts II" after admitting to not having so much fun.

Some recommended biting the bullet and giving up, but that was never an option for me.

Thirty-two hours and some change later, though, it's finally over; my second dip into Square Enix's Disneyland finished.

I'm not sure how I expected to feel when the credits started to roll.

Perhaps elation? Because I could finally stop playing a game I regretted starting and turn my attention to "Bully"? Instead, I was confused: the remaining 12 hours I had with "Kingdom Hearts II" were really great, but they filled me with a bit of shame. Why? It meant that I would, inevitably, play "Kingdom Hearts III."

Let me try to explain...

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Counter-StrikeBuddhist monks. "Counter-Strike."

Not exactly two things you expect to have anything in common. But, while researching a story that has absolutely nothing to do with either, we discovered some monks in China that are big fans of Valve's shooter.

Honestly, I didn't believe Gearbox Software's Randy Pitchford when he told me.

"I was a bit surprised when I was in China and I was told about a group of Monks who live in a temple next to a Cybercafe. Apparently, the monks are not permitted to drink alcohol, eat meat or be married, but it’s totally acceptable for them to play violent video games. Apparently, this group of Monks spent a lot of time next door to their temple at the Cybercafe playing 'Counter-Strike,'" Pitchford told Multiplayer.

He wasn't lying. Scouring the results of a simple Google search for "counter-strike monks" I found a number of visitors stumbling across monks firing their virtual AK-47s in de_dust (a famous "Counter-Strike" map).

For more, we spoke with a world traveler who actually saw the monks in person.

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Kingdom Hearts II20 hours and 14 minutes.

That's what the game clock currently reads on "Kingdom Hearts II." Within the first few hours of turning the game on, however, I'd decided maybe I shouldn't be playing. Maybe Tetsuya Nomura went a little too crazy with his Disney sequel. Maybe a game's prologue shouldn't last more than three hours and have no bearing on the main storyline for the next 16 hours.

Stephen Totilo has told me I should just stop, comparing it to the kind of relationship that should have ended years ago. Former 1UP staffer Kathleen Sanders begged me to just say no and play what she calls a "good game." I've even considered deleting my save file to provide an ample amount of motivation.

They're both right. But, I'm still playing. Why?

Because "Kingdom Hearts II'"s game clock reads 20 hours and 14 minutes.

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carnivalgames_281×211.jpgAll I want are some options. And a chance to be me sometimes. Is that too much to ask?

It all started with "Carnival Games," which I played last August. When I went to create my character, it gave me a variety of choices for pants, shirts, shoes, accessories, hairstyles... you name it. But when it came to skin color, it only offered different faces in one pale hue. In other words, as a minority (I'm a Chinese woman), I could not replicate my skin color for my avatar within "Carnival Games" (much less if I were African-American or Hispanic). I found that a bit offensive.

A more recent example that reminded me of this topic was the (hotly debated) ocean exploration sim "Endless Ocean," where my diver had the choice to have either brown or black hair (sorry blondes, redheads and everyone in-between). As for skin tone, it asked me what kind of "tan" I wanted (clearly, African-Americans just have deeper "tans" than I do). The darkest "tan" I could get matched the skin color of someone from "Laguna Beach."

Then there are games that don't let you choose gender despite the fact that your character's sex doesn't affect the story. Like in "Crackdown," for instance (one of my favorite games of '07). Totilo reported that the "GTA"-style game backtracked on having women characters as cybernetically-enhanced police officers because of having to create "a whole new set of animations for a female bulking up." And then there's "The Club," which I saw a demo of last year, a score-based, arcade-style shooter that has eight characters, all with different attributes, and all men. Would it have hurt to throw a female in there? Couldn't she have a special attribute?

"Her special attribute could be cooking and cleaning," a co-worker joked. See what I have to deal with?

I'm not saying that all games have to have playable female characters (as well as the option for race) in them, and I'm totally fine with being a (white) dude in games (I love being Mario, Gordon Freeman, Max Payne, etc. of course). But based on my tendency as a gamer, when given the choice, I will choose to be a female, maybe Asian-looking. Why? Probably because I don't often get to be a female in games, save for the more "casual" titles that I tend not to play.

All I'm saying is that I would love to see more games (like "Rainbow Six Vegas 2") have the option to be a female character -- when appropriate and when the story permits. The same could be said of different races. There's absolutely no reason for a game like "Carnival Games" to not have any choice for skin tone. What do you think?

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