Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tweet Game

The future is now!

Thanks to the Internet Acrhive, you can now embed classic games into your tweets on Twitter.

No really! You can totally do it. Give it a shot! It's pretty darn nifty.

And dumb. But still cool.

Science makes all things possible!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why Some (1) Took Offense at ESPN

Are any of us really surprised that one of ESPN's reporters is unhappy that the network decided to air an eSports competition Sunday night on ESPN2?

Probably not.

ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd is taking a very firm stance against eSports, already stating that he refuses to call matches and if it gets him fired? So be it. Now in Cowherd's history, he has been known to be one of the more controversial hosts. He has made borderline racist and sexist jokes in the past, and holds a lot of fringe opinions. He's also on several Top 10 lists of "worse sportscaster," so take what you will from that.

He has a following enough for him to be on the air, and he's clearly not afraid to alienate potential fans, or his bosses at ESPN.

Hate to break it to you Cowherd. eSports is a thing. It's here to stay. And they're not all kids living in their parents basement. The Heroes of the Dorm tournament you bashed on? It all involved students. In college. Playing for scholarships. Some of them want to be scientists and make the world a better place.

I think the joke is on you, bucko.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

ESPN Begins To Bring eSports To Front Page

Apparently ESPN2 decided to move their Heroes of the Dorm, a play on Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm, tournament from ESPN3 to an evening event this past Sunday where the last set of teams for the March bracket played in the finals.

Normal ESPN2 viewers were mixed with awe and confusion. Some were just downright butt holes and began throwing out slurs and vulgarity on Twitter to ESPN.

Blizzard announced a partnership with ESPN to do a March Madness style tournament of the game from top teams around the country. The teams are all college based and the top prize was enough money to cover most of the tuition of the gamers. The brackets were whittled down to two, Arizona State vs. U.C. Berkley. The tournament has been viewable on ESPN3 for several weeks, as a  number of Twitter users commented. So seeing the final round on the more heavily viewed channel of ESPN2 makes sense.

Reviews have been mixed and the Nielson numbers for the airing will not be available until next week. Still, it's another step forward for eSports.

But for those who are getting flustered about having their normal programming taken away, here are some wise words from Tortio 586:

"You watch sports. This is esports. [T]echnically watching the same thing."

Monday, April 27, 2015

Konami Cancelling Silent Hills

Yesterday, film director Guillermo del Toro stated that Silent Hills was not going to happen. Facebook and Twitter lit up. And we were all a bit surprised to read this, given how much support was behind the project. A del Toro/Kojima mesh sounds too awesome to ignore.

Today Konami confirmed that the project has been officially cancelled. Any previews and/or trailers are being removed and it is off the show floor for E3 this year. It's another blow from the company now that Kojima has elected to part ways from the developer.

"Konami is committed to new Silent Hill titles, however the embryonic ‘Silent Hills’ project developed with Guillermo del Toro and featuring the likeness of Norman Reedus will not be continued. In terms of Kojima and Del Toro being involved, discussions on future Silent Hill projects are currently underway, and please stay tuned for further announcements." Konami statement to Kotaku.

So for fans, they are not giving up on Silent Hill as a franchise. It's this particular collaboration that will not move forward, and that sucks. Because it looked so damn cool. I was ready to be scared again.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Did DC Comics Turn Their Female Characters Into Disney Princesses?

Today we're going to talk about comic books. Specifically DC Entertainment and WB partnering with toy-maker Mattel announcing the launch of 'DC Super Hero Girls' this fall. It will be Mattel's first set of action figures for girls. The mash-up will also include digital content (which may be comics?), TV specials, straight-to-video episodes, toys, and apparel, among other products.

I'm going to try my best to be as objective as I possibly can be with this piece.

Since the press release was issued on Tuesday, response has led to two different teams: those who love the idea, and those who think it's further separating girls from the fandom.

Earlier this year an 11-year-old girl called out DC online and through a letter campaign about the lack of women in their comic books. The few that do exist are stereotyped or sexualized in an unrealistic manner, that most women don't feel comfortable associating with comic books. DC responded in kind and promised the young girl that they would do better. I don't want to suggest that because of that girl that we have the 'DC Super Hero Girls' bonanza, but she helped pushed the announcement of it up a few months sooner. Because an undertaking of that precedent takes years. Not days. Not weeks. Years. There are contracts to review, run through legal, and sign. There are products to test, tweak, and polish before they hit the manufacturing floor. There are drawings to draw. Even as the technology for animated television shows has improved dramatically, there are still people sitting at a desk drawing these characters frame by frame. It takes time.

As a whole, it appears that people appreciate what DC is trying to do. They want to make comics more inviting to girls by showing their current female line-up (5 heroes, 2 villains) as accessible. The story will revolve around these 7 women in their early teen years. I'm assuming they are fighting crime, but I don't know why Poison Ivy or Harley Quinn would join the good guys. Aside from the flaws in comic logic, this alternate universe offers some promise to young girls and maybe it'll show some of the boys that the female characters can be just as cool as Batman.

Many commenters noted that they are happy to see this line. It'll give them a chance to introduce comics to their girls by having the super heroes presented to them in a different way. It's a lot less intimidating to go to a toy store then it is a comic shop (and I speak from a vast amount of experience).

On the other side of the discussion, a number of people say that DC and WB are giving these super hero women the "Princess Effect." Essentially turning the few female characters that they have into Disney Princesses. After one look at the promotional image, it's difficult to argue against this lot. With the exception of hair and skin color, all of the heroes and villains on that poster look the same. Same face shape, body type, large eyes, trim waists, long flowy hair, height, I could continue on. But it is striking to see just how little variation there is better the characters outside of hair color and skin tone.

In essence, the heroes and villains look like Disney Princesses by harboring many of the same traits you would see of a Disney or Pixar movie. In 2010, artist Oceanstarlet created a tutorial on DeviantArt covering how to draw a female Disney character. It gained international attention in 2013 as more people began to examine the art behind Disney, and how little variation exists with women. More recently in 2015, Tumblr user Something Classy did an examination of Pixar and computer generated characters in Disney films. It went viral on a level of Gangnam Style views. After doing a basic trace of faces from random characters, to see if the Disney Princess principle applied, it is startling to see how unique the male faces are, and utterly depressing that every female face looks the same. It's sparked many to start questioning the content being produced to children. No wonder we (and I mean that in the general sense) all have body issues if even Disney is telling us that women need to have baby-faces, large round eyes, trim waists, while the men can look however they like.

When you apply this principle to the 'DC Super Hero Girls' promo art, you can see where the concern lies.

The other argument this side claims is that by having these super hero girls not involved in the universe with the boys, we're further separating girls from the comics. "You can play with this, but you can't play with the boys stuff," since the content is targeted specifically to girls. Many comments on the DC press release webpage mirror this concern.

"Congratulation WB and DC and completely missing the point of the campaign to see more gender diversity in media. You missed the word "diversity" by once again sectioning girls off in their own little universe and applying the princess model." User stevedesigner commented.

And he's right. This isn't including girls. It's shuttering them from the rest of the DC Universe by excluding them from the comic experience.

There is potential here for something good to happen. It's good to see that DC recognizes that girls and women read comic books too. These fans want to see their favorite female heroes and villains take center stage. But we shouldn't separate the genders. That's where this whole issue started in the first place over a century ago when comics became mainstream.

Where do you weigh in on the debate?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chinese Escorts for Single Gamers

Are you lonely playing video games in that cafe? Tired of sitting for hours on end without a companion at your side. Well, if you're in China then you can hire an escort to keep your worries at bay.

Yep. For many internet cafes, which is one of the only places where people can partake in playing video games due to the rigid regulations in China, people will sit at computers for a chunk of the day. What better way to offer pull more cash out of your customers then by offering them a lovely lady or gent to sit next to you while you game and provide physical comfort. No I don't mean like that. Just simply sitting there and chatting. Sometimes these men and women offer gamers tips and advice on how to improve their score. Others are tutors for high school and college-age students.

The people working these gigs are typically female, as most who visit internet cafes are generally male, and are either college students themselves or moonlighting office workers. And because of the economy, coastal cities are more likely to have these services then cities in the mainland. Similar businesses exist in South Korea and Japan, but it's interesting to see it taking form in China in such a way. As the country eases up on video game restrictions, we may see more of this type of unique activity over the coming years.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Weekly Link Round-Up

Good morning gamers! Hope you have your internet search hats on today, as we bring you links from around the web.

- Nerd Reactor wants to talk to you about violent video games, and how they can be a learning tool. It's quite an insightful read regarding war games, as the primary focus. Particularly with the military involved and first-hand experiences of soldiers, games today are constantly being tweaked to give as close to a real experience as possible. Shooting civilians, for example, results in game overs or loss of points. It's also important to keep in mind that not everyone plays a game the same way. In worlds where you don't need to kill people to achieve an objective, they can be used as a way of teaching people the difference between right and wrong, morally. I refer back to my GTA article written in 2010 (yes, I've been on this blog for that long), about a father allowing his son to play the game by requiring him to follow the law. Which means no killing, obey all traffic signals, and stop if a police officer asks you to.

- Tencent, aka Riot Games, has taken over the industry, even toppling Blizzard's MMO juggernaut World of Warcraft. League of Legends is everywhere, and it's selling out stadiums. While general sales may be down due to a sluggish first quarter, staples of the industry are staying on target.

- A new study is showing that bringing video games into long-term adult care centers is not as helpful as initially believed. Much of it probably stems from stereotypes about games being only for kids. But many health facilities are pushing for the content because of past research showing improved activity and socialization among adults. Dr Gerling commented that the games present to adults need to be more forgiving, because some may have disadvantages in coordination due to aging. While we doubt "adult" games will be readily available soon, as the gaming population ages, it's a market to be tapped.

- And finally, The Daily Emerald - the University of Oregon's Independent Media news source, is claiming the consoles are dead. Again. seems like I posted something about this once before...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kotaku Now Posting NotAlwaysRight-Like Stories

Game store employees! Kotaku is taking your submissions for outrageous customer hijinks for a monthly series or retail horror stories. E-mail Jason Schreier and he'll take it from there.

Some of the stories are long-winded. Others are missing some key components on the humor (I still don't find the nunchuck story all that amusing when it ends with a death threat). But in general, you can now read what I've been saying for years: there are some crazy customers out there who love to frequent video game stores.

Except the last story. No game relation at all. Just someone commenting on a customer's appearance.

In general, these stories are tame. I've read and heard a lot of stories at corporate working in customer service. There are a lot of nutty things that happen in the stores, and the vast majority are the customer's doing. I point to the Wii Pee story I posted last year.

But if you need a lighthearted chuckle, check out Kotaku's Untold Customer stories from game stores (and the one that wasn't gaming related).

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Review Turn-Around

NPR recently interviewed Chris Kohler of Wired about the changing face of video game reviews. This isn't a #Gamergate situation. I promise. Arun Rath's goal was to dive in and figure out how game reviews survive with the emerging digital distribution of content, and maintain their readership.

The answer: it's difficult.

They used the SimCity remake as an example. When reviewers were initially given the game it was just them and a handful of EA employees to test the product. Even with Kotaku's semi-poor reception during reviewer testing, a lot of game review sites loved the product. And then it got pushed out to the crowd at large. It broke. A lot. Servers were down. A lot (which was an extra special painful experience when the game is only allowed to be played online). The product had to go through a series of patches and changes before it could be playable again, and many looked to reviewers with a "what the heck happened?" face.

I wouldn't say that it severed the trust between reviewers and gamers, but it did put a sizable mark on the wall. How can we believe your 9.5 rating when the game breaks on us?

These days, not only do readers feel like they've been led on, more games are now being released incomplete. There are bugs and portions of content missing to be left open for additional updates down the road. As a reviewer, you're only getting a portion of the product that may change a month later. Your article is out of date within days of posting as patches emerge to fix bugs and add new content.

That's rough. With new content always coming out, how do you review something that evolves over time? MMO's are a fantastic example of this. There was a time where they were reviewed very much like all of the other games out there. You talk about the first game, and then the expansion packs, and list off the content that's available. Reviewers didn't focus on patches or the ancillary content released outside of the boxed expansion. Today? You have reviews on patches. You have to if you want to stay on top as a reviewer. It's not enough to talk about the base game. You need to dig into the details.

This is where I'm happy to see Kotaku has updated in their reviewing style. They understand that games are changing, and so is the way we consume them. We're not playing a game once and done. Expansions and DLC are the thing, and we're coming back to play one game several times over the years. As such, Kotaku's review sequence begins with a game's release, and doesn't end until the expansions are done. They cover each phase of the game's evolution. It's something I've been dancing with for a while, but given the context of my blog, full-blown reviews haven't been on my dart board.

As Kotaku's system has settled in for the past few months, it'll be interesting to see if other gaming sites will follow. Or if we're still to the "one and done" mantra as film and book reviews see fit.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bandai-Namco: No More Sailor Moon Games. Also STAR WARS!

I'll get this out of my system now and then we can move on.

*clears throat*

ZOMG Star Wars second teaser trailer! I'm actually excited for this movie nows! Yeas! And oh man! Wish I could be at Celebration. They are seeing the costumes up close! Argh! And the last seconds with Han Solo back as good ol' Han solo. Dah! Love!

Okay. Okay I'm good. I needed that little bit of happy this week. :)

Back to video game news.

With the renewed interest in Sailor Moon, now that Crystal is developing another arc, fans are looking forward to another game by Bandai, Namco. Hold on. There were Sailor Moon video games? Yep. Quite a few actually. They're not bad, per se. I'd equate them to some of the early Barbie Nintendo games that were seemingly pretty to look at, but not much substance behind them. But people like them, so who am I to knock it? (Unless it's Call of Duty.)

But according to The Mary Sue, a new game will not be released in the West. There "may" be a new game, but it'll be localized to Japan only. In fact, no Sailor Moon game has actually made it across the ocean. Theodore Jefferson has been hired by DiC and translation companies to attempt to make Sailor Moon work in the past, and each time it has failed. Time ran out on licensing, there were issues with voice actors, basically anything that could go wrong, did. And Jefferson believes that the publishers are the ones behind it. There's a sense along the top tier chain that the games won't sell in the U.S. because the manga and anime are only popular in Japan.

Now as a moonie, I know that's not true. Sailor Moon is an icon in anime and has an international following. But for some reasons the people making the decisions don't see it. Maybe it's their attempt to keep the moonie following local? Maybe they don't want to share Sailor Moon to the world beyond a few animated episodes? I don't know.

What seems to be fairly true is that Bandai and Namco have no interest in localizing Sailor Moon video games. So don't hold your breath, fans.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Games To Help DUI Awareness

In preparation for 4/20, the unofficial day of the year where marijuana is celebrated, police in Colorado have come up with a clever way to remind people that getting high and driving is still illegal. They've installed video game-like kiosks to help inform the public at Mary Jane dispensaries around the state.

Colorado became one of the first states in the U.S. to legally sell marijuana, and for a year it's been good business. The state takes a tax cut, that would be why. But another problem has occurred for police. CDOT, the transportation regulators for Colorado, issued a survey that found that 20% of drivers didn't know that they could get a DUI for driving while high. Another 50% have driven while high.

DUI is driving under the influence. Most people assume that's only alcohol. But it's not. "Under the Influence" is the consumption of anything that can alter your state of mind, inhibit your actions, or cause you to not think clearly. This can be prescription medications (that's why a lot of them are labeled with "don't use heavy machinery" on the side of the bottle) as well as medical marijuana. Even if you're able to use it legally, it's no different then alcohol. If it's open, out, and used, it's a DUI.

CDOT has set up the kiosks to look like an old-school game center. When you walk up to them, a message will flash about driving while high, and allow you to play a free game to let your buzz die down.

They are targeting young adults as well as the 4/20 event in downtown Denver. They are also sponsoring yellow cabs that will be available to hep drive people home after their pot-in.

Hey, if it helps teach one person the importance of being sober while driving, I'm all for it. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hunger Games Theme Park...It's Becoming a Thing

Warning: Today's post is not gaming related. But it seems geeky enough to comment on. And the concept is...ridiculous.

There have been rumors circulating for a while that there was going to be a Hunger Games theme park, based off the popular novel series and the even more financial-worthy movies. I want to believe that it started as a joke, with the Harry Potter attractions being built at Universal Studios in Florida. "Ride through the train to the Capital city and be selected as a Tribute!" Um. No? That's horrible. I don't want to be one of the kids selected to "represent" my sector and have a 1/24 chance of surviving. How is that considered "fun" to be a theme park?

Well the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have confirmed that the park is underway in Dubai. Lionsgate, the production company behind the films, issued a press release that they are teaming up with Dubai Parks and Resorts to create MotionGate, a Lionsgate Theme Park. So it wouldn't be just about The Hunger Games, but other franchises as well such as the dance-off series Step-Up.

No really. Look at the press release. Step-Up is mentioned as a stage show.

The park will take up 4 million square-feet and will feature 27 different technology-based rides. The attraction company estimates that up to 3 million people will visit the park yearly, with a 2016 opening projection date.

Dubai Parks and Resorts is expecting to be the go-to service in the coming years, as they are also building the first LEGOLAND theme park in the region, and a Bollywood Park (first in the world).

I'm trying to imagine with a Lionsgate park would look like. They hold the rights to the Divergent novels. But they also produced the movies Lolita, Dogma, Fahrenheit 911, and American Psycho. A simulated ride about being Patrick Bateman, wealthy bank investor who is a secret serial killer? And then you walk down the street to the next attraction, where you can secretly lust over a 14 year old girl...

Okay. That got really creepy, very quickly. Maybe a Hunger Games central theme isn't a bad idea by comparison? It's still weird, though.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Games for Learning Summit

Video games are the future of education! We already knew that. We've known that for a while. But it's nice to see that the U.S. Department of Education is coming around to our side. Erik Martin, the department's Games for Learning lead spoke with Polygon about where technology may lead us with education. He also sees video games as an opportunity to transform education and reinvent it in a way that works for kids and adults.

"If you look at the life of a student ... a lot of students play on average about 10,000 hours of video games by the time they are graduating high school. That is almost the same amount they are spending in schools," said Erik Martin, the U.S. Department of Education's Games for Learning lead. "You can imagine a lot of the time which of the two activities they might feel more engaged in or more relevant.

This month, the department is holding it's first Games for Learning summit in New York. It'll be attended by game developers and publishers, students, teachers, and educational experts. The organizers want to use this as a testing ground and have open discussion groups with students and teachers to break down the barriers that prevent educational games from having an impact. Ubisoft is one of the larger publishers that will be attending.

As kids and adults become more involved in video games, schools are looking for unique ways to help bring interest back to subjects that tend to be forgotten (such as math, science, and history). It's difficult to make math fun. I have had a number of teachers try. My argument is that none of them brought in real world applications to math. If I had known how much math I would use with sewing, I would have payed more attention.

But before this there has been a movement to bring validity to gaming and geeky topics within the academic realm. For years anime and animation have been the subject of interest: considered the step-child of film because they are continually stereotyped as only being made available for kids. Now we're at a point where animation theory has been developed. I teach academic anime and gaming panels at conventions at least twice a year. The interest is there, it's a matter of convincing everyone to get on board and finding ways to impart the knowledge without it coming off as "another boring lecture."

Games for Learning is a starting point. I don't know if they will record or broadcast any of the panels, but if they do, I'll be sure to link them.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Board Games Making a Comeback?

International Tabletop Day has come and gone, but it's still creating a buzz around the internet. As the geeky niche of the gaming community, more people are turning to the creativity of board games with a renewed vigor. Celebrities backing the event also helps.

It's interesting to see how much tabletop games have gained revenue of the past few years. In 2013, Hasbro saw a 10% increase in sales. TV shows like Family Game Night and the spin-off advertising campaigns have been pushing Monopoly and DnD back into people's homes. Justin Becker, father of 3, saw it as a new way to connect with his children. You don't need the television or video games to have a good time, which is true (as much as I'd hate to admit it).

One thing that I noticed at PAX South this year was the amount of board games on the expo floor. Not just in the pen and paper section, but on the main stage as well. A number of independent developers are incorporating card games or DnD-like manuals for people to have their own tabletop version of the video game. Even Dragon Age has a tabletop RPG game. It was interesting to see just how much board games are permeating into the rest of the non-geeky culture.

No numbers have been released yet on how many people participated in Tabletop day this year, but I'd imagine with the amount of press involved, it's going to be a number they didn't expect.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kids Want Change In Games

Remember that post that I made last year about the gaming gender gap, and how things haven't changed much in the past 20 years? I will now link it for your reading enjoyment. A year can make a difference, but not by a whole lot. What's interesting is that much of the change has been spearheaded not by adults, but by children.

Maddie Messer is 12 years old and she loves Temple Run. She plays video games, particularly mobile titles, but has noticed a trend: there are a lot of male characters and not many women. So she created a spreadsheet and began tracking what heroes are available of the top 50 most downloaded games for mobile. 37 of the games offered free male characters as a default, while only 5 offered female characters as an option. A number of the games allowed you to get a female avatar, if you paid for it, which averages out to $7.53 per purchase. Or a whopping $30 for that one Disney game. Yikes.

It's called price discrimination, where businesses charge different prices for different people for an identical product. If you need a comparison, senior citizen and student discounts at movie theaters would be a form of this. The creators of Temple Run didn't see this as an issue until Maddie wrote a letter and brought it to their attention. For them, the female avatar was not considered a default, like in so many games, and if people want it, they'd have to pay for it (and they do). The developers hope to have a freebe female character in an upcoming update to the game. Disney is also reconsidering their pricing structure now that Maddie's letters have gone viral.

But this form of gender bias also plays in other realms of retail, as we have seen in the past. Like fabric. Yeah. Arts and craft. Typically a "girly" domain also experiences bias on fabric. I see it every time I go into the store and they have "character" fabrics from franchises. Since Disney took over Lucasfilm, Star Wars fabrics are all over the place. Every single officially licensed fabric is with a dark blue background, and has images of Yoda and Luke Skywalker on them. The few female characters that exist in the universe are no-where to be found. But it's like this on all of the sports fabrics, holiday prints, you name it. Anything that has a "character" of some sort will always be male. No girls allowed.

A mother in Washington, Veronica, had a similar concern with prints for Big Hero 6. Oh look. Another Disney movie. The company who designed the fabric, Springs Creative, made a fabric that featured 4 of the 6 main characters. Guess which 2 were missing? Yep. The 2 women. She didn't buy the fabric and wrote an email to the company regarding her concerns. Her kids spurred her on to make the complaint. They wanted all of the heroes on the fabric, not just the boys. The company's response noted that the movie was geared towards boys, and boys don't want to see girls on their stuff. Their exact wording was "(eeeww girls! Yuck! Haha)." Really. It's in the post.

Veronica wasn't happy. I wouldn't be either. That's a pretty half-arse excuse, but given the market...I'm not at all surprised. People assume that it's a "boy product" therefore they cater only to boys. The big to-do with Black Widow not being prominently featured in the initial The Avengers advertising, sometimes being left out entirely, is no different. Companies think this is what people want, and we accept it because that's how it's always been.

But this does give me a sparkle of hope for the future. We're seeing kids, boys and girls, making a bold statement: we want everyone to be included. And that's great! Why shouldn't everyone be involved? Now to get companies to start listening when the adults complain...

Thursday, April 09, 2015

ESA Doesn't Want To Preserve Old Titles

The ESA has a new message to game publishers and fans: Don't preserve abandoned games. It's against the law.

As titles become defunct by their developers (either by being cancelled or the title is so old that the company no longer supports it), a number of fans want to do something to preserve the content for the digital era. They shouldn't be left behind simply because of their age. It would be like us ignoring Citizen Kane.

Actually. I'm okay with ignoring that movie. It's terrible, with the exception of the sound design. But hopefully you understand the point. Ignoring the older generation of games would be no different then us "forgetting" that 'Gone With the Wind' was an important aspect of cinema history.

The ESA stats that trying to preserve these games and re-introduce them into the digital realm is a form of hacking and infringes on privacy laws. If the developer no longer supports it, then it no longer supports it. Anyone who attempts to force the older games to be preserved is hacking into them. Interesting stance to take...

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a law student are working with the Copyright Office to see if an exemption can be made in one of their clauses, Section 1201 to be exact. The goal is to allow fans and users the ability to modify game codes so older products can still be utilized, maintained, and cataloged for academics. The current rules create legal issues for preserving old technology. The EFF argues that it's to lock out competition, but I think the original intent behind the law was to prevent people from taking a game's code, tweaking it, and re-releasing it under a new name and claiming it's their own work. If the alterations are for academic purposes to keep the content alive in a new era, that should be a reasonable exemption. We'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Five Night Picked Up For Film Potential

Five Nights at Freddy's has been picked up by Warner Bros. and may be optioned into a movie, as part of the sweeping craze to buy up all the video game things. Everywhere!

I think I may let Five Nights slide. It's an odd game that would lend itself well to the horror genre. For those who haven't played the game, it's become a recent cult classic. Google it and you'll mostly find YouTube and Twitch videos of people reacting to the game. It is a 2014, point and click indie game centering around a fictional pizza parlor, Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. Think of it like Chuck E Cheese, but weirder. You are a security guard, and apparently the animatronic characters come to life at night. Your goal is to survive your work shift at Freddy's.

By comparison to the rest of the video game movies being picked up, Five Nights could work. The concept is simple enough that it could be embellished with additional characters without detracting from the original plot line. There is an opportunity to be creative and not destroy the original work. Very important to us gamers.

Creator of the game, Scott Cawthorn, will be working with WB to produce the film. How active he will be in the film is unknown, but there is already a building hype around the product.

“We’re looking forward to working with Scott to make an insane, terrifying and weirdly adorable movie,” said Seth Grahame-Smith, one of the producers of the film.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Weekly Link Roundup

Another link round-up today of some interesting, and sometimes weird, stuff one finds on the internet about gaming news.

- Copyright laws. This one is not about developers using the likeness of others for games (EA, we're looking at you). The focus for the article is over user generated content, with the skeleton framework created by the game, but someone puts a new skin on it. Who owns that content? Does anyone? And can it be copyrighted?

- Keith Burgun blogs on Gamasutra that video games are nothing more then broken toys. We don't mean Assassin's Creed: Unity, where games are intentionally being released with the promise of more content later. The argument is essentially this: toys break when you give them a goal. As you play a game, your task is to complete the goal set within that digital world. Press A into Slot B and there's your thesis. I'm not fully convinced on the argument, but it's an interesting take on how one can view a video game.

-  Don't get mad at free to play games. Be happy. Several developers at GDC comment on the free to play model and how it's affecting the video game business, in a good way.

- Here's another post to Nintendo on how to run their company. Mostly it's about the new YouTube adShare program and Amiibos. Those stupid, stupid Amiibos. Yes. I have 3. No. I still don't have a WiiU. What of it?

- And we'll round it off with WhatCulture and what they feel are the 10 most offensive portrayals of women in video games. They included Bayonetta so...yeah. Take what you will from that.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Nintendo Pending Litigation Over New YouTube adShare Program

As Nintendo's YouTube adShare program is kicking into full swing, a number of gamers are turning to the law to determine if what Nintendo is doing is actually legal.

Here's the issue and how it all breaks down: In 2013 Nintendo began rolling through YouTube and started making copyright claims on videos that contained their content, including Let's Plays from gamers who have received advertising money from the Tube. In doing so, it would allow all ad revenue to go to Nintendo, and not the YouTubers. There was a big enough backlash that Nintendo dropped their claims.

Since then, Nintendo revamped their stance and created a program where people can register with their services and share some of the profit with a 40/60 split of Nintendo/User. That's if Nintendo accepts the channel's application. If it does not, Nintendo can pull all of the ad revenue with nothing being delivered to the user for any Nintendo content posted.

While Nintendo does have a list of games that can not be applied to the adShare (such as Smash and any 3rd party content), they haven't provided a guide on how a channel qualifies for their program. Right now some channels are being approved, while others denied, without a consistent framework.

The other issue YouTuber's have is the dramatic profit share Nintendo wants. With YouTube, it's a 50/50 split on ad revenue. For every dollar, YouTube takes 50 cents. If you are adSharing with Nintendo, your 50 cents has now dropped to 30 cents, with Nintendo taking 20. It may not seem like a lot, but every penny counts, even if you're not of the level of internet fame as PewDiePie.

Hypothetical time! Let's say you made $25,000 ad revenue from a Mario Party 8 Let's Play. Half goes to YouTube, so now you're down to $12,500. If you're on Nintendo's adShare program, take off another $5,000 for their services, and you are now at $7,500 profit. You're making only 30% of the original ad revenue amount. That's nutty.

But can't you ignore Nintendo and not sign up for their program? Nope. As part of the policy, if you have any content that is remotely involved with Nintendo, you have to sign up and have your channel reviewed. Even my channel, which makes 0 money and has no advertising involved, has to go through the process. Why? Because I posted video of my Super Mario RPG half-ass speed run for the Extra Life Charity in 2014.

A number of gamers believe that what Nintendo is doing is not following copyright and fair use laws. They're making money off of the advertisements on the side-bars, not on the games themselves. They believe that they are giving plenty of free advertising for Nintendo, because people can see how much fun it is and buy the game for themselves.

Copyright law will vary from country to country, but most of the Western world has a fairly universal understanding of fair use: fair use does not infringe on copyright if it's used for research, parody, satire, criticism or news reporting.

Movie clips being used in critiques and reviews would fall into this practice, and so would video games.

Nintendo has not responded to requests for details, as they do not comment on pending litigation.But this is setting a precedence on the future of adSharing and YouTube. If Nintendo manages to win it's claim, what's to stop other developers from doing the same. What if EA tagged all of their products with an AdShare program? Well then...Let's Play videos would cease to exist. EA holds A LOT of games. Like, a lot, a lot.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Sony Continues To Persue Cloud Gaming

Sony announced yesterday that they have acquired the company OnLive, a gaming service that allowed users more freedom to game when and where they want without the need for buying consoles. They have purchased the patents from OnLive and the company will officially shut down on April 30th. As Sony moves forward with their Vue and beefing up their PlayStation Now services, they are acquiring companies to help boost their portfolios, and take out potential competition. Legally, of course.

OnLive was originally founded by Steve Pearlman, an Apple and Microsoft alum. The idea was to allow more people access to gaming without having to shell out money for the base costs of owning a system. Because even now those things are pricy. They developed the patents behind "cloud gaming," and people could log in through a website service similar to Netflix in order to play.

In 2010 it's initial company launch backfired with the wavering economy still in flux. In 2012 they offered a streaming technology service similar to Valve's Steam, but on a scaled down level. Their biggest issue has been convincing gamers to pay for the cloud. Polls show that less then 15% are willing to pay for the service, since most of the cloud gaming already comes for free or as part of a larger bundle package to a subscription. Sony is currently juggling this issue with a hefty price for monthly service and rent-by-title.

Sony Now is available for $20 a month, or $45 for three months. Single title rentals will vary based on the publisher, from $5 for 4 hours up to $30 for a 90 day period. It's unclear how many people have signed up for Sony Now or what their marketing plan is, but they clearly have hope that the service will work, and people will pay for it.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Why We Should Reconsider Gamification

MIT professors dislike the term Gamification. It was coined in 2002, but didn't really spark anyone's interest until 2010 when video games really began to define culture. Not just for those getting out of college and eager to join the work-force, but those aged 25-40 who have been involved in gaming for a while, or have discovered gaming through mobile phone apps.

In essence, Gamification is the use of game mechanics and applying them to non-game concepts to make the content more engaging. Professor's Eric Klopfer, and Scot Osterweil feel that the term now centers on "making a game out of learning," thus defeating the purpose of the game and learning. They argue that the best educational games are the ones that take what's already fun about learning and make that central to the game. Running around and collecting points, casting spells, and waving a sword is not conducive to the learning aspect. The "fun" part of learning needs to feel natural. Fun should not be forced onto learning. Klopfer and Osterweil feel that the buzz word undermines what they see as an opportunity for games to transform education.

MIT's Education Arcade was created by the two professors, and they assist schools around the country with adding fun to their lesson plans. It encourages teachers to create their own games from scratch, and not rely on pre-made products that muck up the learning experience. Their goal is to help reach to teachers and students that learning is fun all on it's own - you don't need to tack on an experience point bar.

“If somebody comes to me and says, ‘I want to make math fun,’ I don’t want to work with that person because they don’t think math is already fun," said Osterweil.

 Using Math Blaster, a 1983 computer game that is still in schools today, as an example, Osterweil comments on how the game isn't useful for those who don't inherently find fun in the arithmetic. I remember this game from when I was a kid. We didn't have it on our home PC, but our sole computer at school did. It's essentially a drill and fill game. You are piloting a spaceship and you have to shoot asteroids out of the sky. A math problem appears on the screen and the answer is on the asteroids. Shoot the right one, and you keep playing. Shoot the wrong one, your ship's console flashes red, and you continue playing. It doesn't give you the right answer. It's not a game that enhances the fun of learning math.

This is where Gamification doesn't work. By tacking on a game to a pre-existing product doesn't alter it's message. You're trying to force fun onto a subject that most likely doesn't fit. Fun should occur naturally. Topics need to be taught by people who care about the subject. Through them, the fun becomes inherit. And subjects like math and science can be fun if they are directed through a different light. Maybe applying them to real life situations and not drill the formulas into our brain? I mean, it would have been more engaging for me to know how much I would use math in sewing (seriously, you use a lot) versus reading and hoping to remember the equations from a sheet of paper.

"How do you determine the size of a circle skirt if you need the waist to be 32 inches, and the length to be 38 inches?"

That's a good question!

I wouldn't say Gamification is dead. I'm sure that people will continue to abuse that word for years to come. But we need a better way of presenting learning to people that doesn't result in a gimmick.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

April 1st Link Round-Up

It's April 1st, or April Fools Day. It seems to be mostly a Western "tradition" and a number of people join in on the "fun." As many great men have said, only the amateurs are able to fool people on April 1st. The experts can fool people all year long.

A number of companies have gotten into the spirit and have made it a day to look forward too...sometimes. Google Maps released their Pac-Man inspired game a day early. Not quite a "joke" but a well crafted piece of entertainment. In 2012 Cartoon Network turned over their reigns to revive Toonami for a night, and it sparked a petition to bring the power-block of anime back to station.

I don't do the "April Fools" thing. If I'm going to prank someone, I want it to be at a time when they least expect it. But there are game developers who have unleashed a few goodies for those interested.

GameSpot rounded up the hoaxes for the day, some of them playable!

CNN has found some of the best and worse fools jokes on the net.

NBC News has a few as well, mostly tweets. Also Google's backwards new search engine. And yes, you can use it to find thing.

But if you're looking for some history, how about some 1940's jokes, courtesy of Time?