Friday, May 29, 2015

Ted Cruz...Did Not Expect Him to Game

I make no promises that I won't use satire in this blog post, but I will try my best.

The Daily Beast interviewed Texas Senator Ted Cruz...about video games.

I'll just let that sink in for a moment. If you need to do a quick Google search on Cruz, then here you go. He may or may not be running for the Republican 2016 Presidential nomination. That seems to keep flip-flopping.

He's considered an "extreme" Lefty. Endorsed by tea-party advocates and does not like a lot of freedoms that people enjoy in this nation. Sorry Cruz. It's the truth. He's not a man that I approve of and does not provide an accurate representation of the state of Texas. Unfortunately, he's the voice of Texas in the Senate, therefore everyone assumes that Texas is still backwards-arse. Don't get me wrong. In some areas, we are, but we're actually pretty open-minded down here.

So I clicked to this article with much trepidation. I still don't know if this piece was written as a joke or how much of it is real. But given Cruz's social media team are all ranges of geek, this may be legit.

Cruz reveals that growing up, he had a console in his home. He's a child of the 70's and the 80's. He was around when PacMan and Pong were starting to hit the scene, and he wasn't far behind on the trends. Even in college at Harvard, him and his roommate would spend all night playing Mario Bros.

His console days are over, claiming that he would be too absorbed into it that work wouldn't get done. But he does obsess over his phone games, like Candy Crush and Plants vs Zombies, which he's currently playing. He also plays with his kids on their iPad.

I wonder how much of that review was scripted answers. It all seems too rigid and quick to answer, but not much time was thought into how it came out. Much like his politics. Zing!

This is just weird. As a Texan who does not like Ted Cruz, did not vote for the man, and has yet to agree with his policies, how to promotes his image does not speak of one who understands the joy of video games. He seems like the first person who would be up in arms against it. I'm not saying that it's bad for politicians to play games. Quite the opposite. It's because of Cruz's political stance that I'm surprised he would enjoy games at all. Looks are deceiving, kids. Never judge a book by it's cover, and it could not be more true in this case.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Twitch Update: No More AO Games

Twitch is undergoing more changes, now stamping out AO titles from their servers. If a game is rated AO by the ESRB, you can not stream it. Their goal is to create a safe environment for their users, with the understanding that a number of their customers are under 18 years of age. With the rise of Let's Play videos and YouTube stars, kids turn to internet celebs for their entertainment.

Originally they made game specific decisions on what and was not acceptable content. Some AO games dance the line, while others are no worse then an M rated product. But it can be a battle with users because the guidelines were never really clear. If the content in GTA is okay, why isn't this section of Leisure Suit Larry that has no violence, swearing, or nudity?

So to add to the ease of the consumer, and their staff, now it's a blanket of no AO games.

To be fair, the list of AO games is pretty small. I doubt that many users are actually playing these games, but with the Mature filter tag, it seemed to be a free-for-all on content. And if you're wondering about a game being M in the states but 18+ in Europe? That's okay to play. The "safe list" of games are based on the ESRB ratings, and their ratings along. It would get too complicated when you throw in the European and various other markets. Keep it simple.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nintendo eShop Has a Humble Bundle

Get those wallets ready. The Humble Bundle has managed to do something that we didn't think possible: team up with Nintendo and release their brand of indie games for this week's sale. 

Let the awe and astonishment wash over you.

For those who don't know, the Humble Bundle began with a simple idea. Let gamers pay as much or as little as they want for games, and send the proceeds to charity. Since then it has grown with the support of companies such as EA and Valve. You get a myriad of games, old and new, at whatever price you want to pay. And you have a say in how your funds are divided. Do they all go to the developer or do you send it to charity, or maybe you do a split? That's up to you.

Games such as Mighty Switch Force and SteamWorld Dig are up for grabs, with more games to release later this week.

So why is it a big deal that Nintendo joined in? Well one, it's Nintendo. This isn't to say they are against charities, because they're not. They tend to have very traditional values with their company and almost never break out of their mold. So to see them willingly give up their content and allow customers to pay whatever they want is unheard of. Second, it's all indie games. Nintendo and indie typically do not mix. At all. I can't imagine how much of a challenge it is to develop something for the 3DS and Wii-U platforms with Nintendo's protocol to run through.

Maybe this is the year where Nintendo turns it all around and starts to look more like Sony and Microsoft? They're working on mobile games so...maybe it's not just a fluke? Maybe there is a monumental shift going on at Nintendo to catch up to the rest of the world?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Selling Cheats In Japan Will Still Get You Arrested

Last year, a stir began in the gaming community of Japan. Those who were caught cheating at a game, online games in particular, could be charged and punished by local law enforcement. It sounds strange. It may not be unusual for the company to pursue legal action against a customer if a lump sum of money was taken. In the situation linked, developer Nexon had over $80,000 (USD) stolen from them by 3 men, ages 17 to 18. But apparently that was enough of a loss that when the story broke, police officers were quick to go in and arrest the 3 men, which Nexon states they had no involvement with.

Not to be deterred, cheating still occurs in the gaming world. But the law officials in Japan do take it seriously because it can negatively impact business, and in the case of Nexon, was theft with the amount of money stolen.

Well, another arrest has occurred that now has more people worried. A man in his thirties, Akihide Yamamoto, was arrested for running a web store that focused on game cheats and exploits, specifically aimed towards the game Alliance of Valiant Arms. To note these are not GameFaq's guides, so don't freak out people. This was a store that specifically targeted issues in the games code and exploited it to give the cheater an edge. Yamamoto was arrested for violating Japan's Unfair Competition Prevention Law. And this isn't the first time that's happened for Yamamoto. He's been arrested several times in the past for the same reason, but with different games. The cheat sellers are being charged, and not the cheaters, because the sellers are the ones most likely to benefit from the transaction, and can disrupt the business of others.

Being in a country that has a high crime rate by comparison to the rest of the world, junking up the legal system with video game cheaters seems counter-productive. But I'm also in a state where they are about to make open-carry of handguns legal, possibly on college campuses as well. My perception on what is, and is not a valid crime, is askew because now I'm going to think everyone is a criminal if I see a gun in their hands. Yea Texas. Thanks for that.

But I'll play the devil's advocate on this one. Given Japan's history and how their culture has grown, what may seem like a silly offense to us could be considered harmful to Japan's society. Their mindset is focused on the country as a unit. What you do for Japan effects everyone in Japan. Your goals are to make not your life better, but the country better. So one person profiting from the harm of another is considered bad for Japan. Therefore, legal authorities must step in and resolve the issue. While it doesn't resolve the issues and, clearly, people are still going to cheat in games, I can understand from their perspective why Japan finds it harmful. So laugh at it if you want. But their priorities are a little different from ours in the U.S.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Weekly Link Round-Up

We're starting the weekly link round-up early due to the number of unusual stories that have appeared on my feed. Maybe it's a Memorial Day thing where everyone wanted to post their stuff asap so they could take the rest of the day off?

Wired has an interesting article about sex games. They're designed to make you feel weird. That's the point. They dive into the world of independent sex games. Nina Freeman explores her teenage years with her games, and the awkward realization of what sex is after smashing two Barbie dolls together to figure it all out. Another is Robert Yang's Hurt Me Plenty, which is very BDSM-material. All of this is to get people to think about sex and relationships rationally and in a real-world sense. The things we see in Triple-A titles are flashes of boob, if that. It's not sex but an image to entice the male gaze. So yes, sex games are meant to make you uncomfortable, but that's to get you talking about it in a healthy, natural way.

- TechCrunch wants to talk about subscription services, and how Sony and Microsoft can use it to win video games. But wait, aren't they already doing this? They are. But Tadhg Kelly recommends that for the companies to grow and solidify their audience, they need to cater to their needs. One suggestion is to have tailored subscription services. Start tracking gamer's play habits (as if they're not already doing it), and customize the experience.

If a player is a daily user of XBox Live, then give them discounts and perks that a once a week user may not see. If a gamer is only playing EA products, work with EA to provide a subscription that fits that gamer's needs. I can forsee a big issue with this idea: fairness. Why should Person A get to pay less then Person B if we're using the same stuff? Good in theory, but not feasible. I don't think the current subscription system will go away anytime soon.

- Geniuses at Duke University in conjunction with Microsoft's research center may have found a way to cut down on the bandwidth for gamers on mobile units. Named Kahawai, the idea is similar to "collaborative rendering." A portion of the game's rendering is done via "The Cloud" while the other is handled by the internal processor of the mobile device. Too many games rely on bandwidth to distribute content, and very little utilize the device itself. But Kahawai's system allows it to happen, and cross platforms without worry about compatibility issues. Tests are still underway, but so far they seem quite promising.

- Coconuts (interesting site name, I know) decided to take a trip to Japan and check out some of their strange games, and they are hosting a "weird game night" in Bangkok. So if you're in the area, check it out. Be amazed by Incredible Crisis or Paradious. You'll wonder how such a country was able to create Mario after watching the videos.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rocketing Bottles - Changing the Corporate Mindset with Creativity

Bottle Rocket Studios, one of the top mobile app developers in the country (creating gaming apps as well), does something a little bit different then most of the corporate working world. They give their employees time to play and indulge in their curiosity.

From April 30 through May 1, the company was unavailable to it's clients and allowed their staff to spend the time doing whatever they want. They can learn to paint, code, buildtheir own mobile apps, create a new board game, whatever they like, in what they dub the Hackathon. That's pretty darn nifty. Part of the stigma of working for businesses is that we are expected to follow protocol that seems fairly universal in the U.S. culture. Even the companies that you would assume would be different, such as video game developers or toy makers, still follow the tried-and-true creed that everyone needs to be in a business suit and be dull.

So seeing a company take a few days off and focus on their employees is kind of revolutionary, at least here in the U.S. The CEO's don't look at is as a waste of time. They feel that everything can be beneficial for the company, and to improve the quality of life for their staff.

Essentially everyone comes into work and spends the day alone or in teams to work on whatever they choose. Then on Friday it's show-and-tell day. Bottle Rocket has released some of the ideas, that may now be in development later this year such as: a jet fighter simulator, with movements based off your hand and not a joystick. Or a fitness app that syncs with Spotify, that will suggest songs for you based on the pace of your workout. There's a Telsa coil that was able to turn on a light bulb from over 2 feet away. Or how about the Kitty Litter Hunt? A monitor is placed inside a kitty litter box and when it needs to be changed, it texts the owner. There were some misses as well: a retro gaming cabinet was built from scratch and programmed with classic games, but it crashed when it was plugged in.

And you know what? They were okay with that. Bottle Rocket supports the successes and the failures, because that's how people grow.

That shouldn't be a novel idea, but it is in this day and age.

If that was a little too touchy-feely for you, then I have a follow-up: Daybreak Game Company has a new ultimatum for banned cheaters who want to get back into their online, zombie-survival game H1Z1. Apologize publicly and they'll let you back in.

Yep. Make a YouTube video and apologize for your cheating and Daybreak will review it, see if you're worthy of returning. After a massive ban of over 30k accounts, the challenge was issued. This wasn't designed to humiliate the users, but to let them know that their actions won't be tolerated. You cheat, you'll be banned. It's as simple as that. But they know that not everyone who has cheated is a long-time offender. It may have been their first time, so they want to give everyone a chance to redeem themselves. One of the first apologies sent in focused on the fact that the user didn't realize how much he lost out of the ordeal: he dropped over $200 on the game and in-game items. His cheating cost HIM money.

So if you're one of those who has been banned for cheating, there's your ticket back in. But remember to apologize to your fellow gamers. Not the company.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Call of Duty - Probably Not Going to Give You a Mental/Physical Ailment

You're more likely to develop a mental illness if you play Call of Duty, according to the NY News Daily.

Well. Crap. I could have told you that years ago. Have you ever tried to hold a conversation with a CoD player? If they're not talking gun specs, they're wandering around aimlessly in a WalMart, looking for more Mountain Dew. Clearly those gamers have a mental condition.

All kidding aside, the title of the "story" had me rolling. Of course I had to read it. Unfortunately for Melissa Chan, it's a pretty crummy article. At least link to the source you are using to twist the story to fit your perception. The claim is that Canadian researches in Montreal have found that habitual gamers are more likely to develop mental and physical illnesses over time. The biggest shift in brain power was during high-action games like AssCreed, and GTA.

Comments were quick to point out Chan's flaws in the story. I just find it highly amusing that the story specifically railroaded against CoD. I wonder if NY News Daily is related to Fox News. Hmm...

For those who want the real story, there was indeed a study conducted by the University of Montreal in Canada. Taking 26 gamers and 33 non-gamers, they saddled them through a series of tests where they monitored brain activity and eye movement. The gamers were more likely to use the area of the brain called the caudate nucleas, which has been known to lead to the loss of grey matter (the area where memory is accessed). This appeared more often when gamers and non-gamers were playing action related titles that focused more on instant-gratification rewards.

What the study focuses on is only a short-term sample. Many are looking at the results and seeing confirmations of what they already knew, but not in a negative way. Such as gamers are more likely to view objects and scenarios differently then non-gamers by being able to comprehend and react quickly in time sensitive situations (Professor Chris Chambers, Cardiff University).

There are counter-articles already on the prowl, many of them noting that games have helped improved memory and cognitive reasoning in Alzheimer's patients. Again it's another study where there are too few subjects, too many flaws, too few variables to make it completely objective.

It's just amusing as all heck that the click-bate article for NY News Daily had such a great headline.

Call of Duty will ruin us all! It'll make us idiots, take away our brain cells, and we'll forget everything!

I'll sit here and wait while you all finish laughing at the absurdity. Other then suffering from a lack of taste of quality gaming products, you're probably not going to get a mental illness playing CoD.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Finger Lickin' Good

As fast food companies look to rebrand and retrain themselves to market towards the 25-35 age range, that now make up a chunk of the spending power, KFC has released a flash game: Colonel Quest.

It involves face-punching and saving babies. 

Well. Okay then. 

The retro-inspired games takes you though the life of Colonel Sanders, the imaginary figurehead of KFC. Spokespeople for the fried chicken company state that it's based on real events. Or as real as an imaginary person can be. In one level, you have to save falling babies by bouncing them on a trampoline, apparently an homage to when the Colonel was an amateur obstetrician. In another level, the Colonel is a lawyer, trying to defend himself and must punch plaintiffs in the face to get drumsticks and prove his innocence. Because punching people in a courtroom is exactly how you prove you didn't do it.

The appeal to gamers isn't new. Denny's attempted this last year by partnering with Atari to bring a series of their classic arcade games to the diner's mobile app. Play the games while you're waiting on your double order of eggs.

McDonald's has been spot testing ideas: building your own burger (a favorite of Whataburger fans), McBrunch, Kiosk-style ordering, and the like. None of them have gone full scale, but at least they're trying.

But are these attempts working or are the customers seeing right through the ploy and ignoring the change? The app promotion with Denny's died out months ago. McD's attempts have not proven fruitful and their profits steadily fall world-wide each year.

For the very rare few of us, we remember when chains did this one before in the 80's and early 90's. The Noid, Domino's Pizza's mascot and Cool Spot, 7UP, are just some of the businesses that attempted to capitalize on the craze. As kids, we enjoyed playing, but it didn't always encourage us to buy the products advertised. As adults, we find them to be classic gimmicks of our youth and nothing more. Playing Spot didn't encourage me to drink 7UP. I thought it was a game to pass the time. If we happened to have 7UP in the house, great. If not, no big deal. There were other drinks to take up the shelves. So I don't see the KFC game going far beyond the gimmick phase. We'll play. We'll laugh at it's lunacy. But it won't encourage us to subconsciously buy more chicken.

What do you think? Does Colonel Quest stand a chance at winning over adult customers?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gaming Cupcake Passion

Growing up, we all held some form of gaming dreams. Whether it was to make them, or to simply play them all day, video games have become apart of our daily lives. But maybe not to the extent that we once hoped for as children.

Today's story is one childhood dream turned into reality. A business venture for Misty McAlhany, the owner of Lolee's CupCade in Enterprise, Alabama. It's a bakery based on gamer and geeky themes, but caters to all customers that walk through their door. She's been planning to put this idea into place since she was 14. Being a gamer girl wasn't exactly the "coolest" thing to do. She was a tomboy just like so many of us, and wanted to take the fun of gaming and put into into something she wanted to do for a living.

What makes CupCade different? Well it's not just a bakery. Half of the store holds arcade centers, consoles, and social activities for kids and adults. Over time McAlhany wants to host tournaments and get local gaming groups involved with a designated gathering location. Maybe buy a cupcake or two while they're at it.

Cosplay is encouraged. Local gaming conventions, and a permit to stream BlizzCon from Twitch, will be on the television, mounted along the walls of the shop. They also offer pizza by the slice. It really is a little kids (and big kids), dream spot.

It's great to see dreams come to life. It may not be as grand as building a video game, but creating a tasty confectionery can be equally as daunting.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Weekly Link Round-Up

An early link review this week, full of approval, sorrow, and laughter. We'll start out with the sad faces first to get it out of the way:

- Guillermo Del Toro feels pretty slighted by video games right now. He's had 2 titles in development go under, and now he's not sure if he can attempt it again. He spoke with IGN regarding the fall of Silent Hills and his vision with Kojima.

"What we wanted to do with the game – and we were very much in agreement on this – was to take the technology and make it as cutting-edge as we could in creating terror in the house. The idea was very, very atmosphere-drenched."

Because of this mess with Konam, Del Toro doesn't feel like he can go back to games. They will be a medium he will not conquer after the unexpected changes.

- On the lighter side of things, released a list of 11 video games that are good for couples to play. And for once, the list is good. Really good. I questioned a game or two, such as Nidhogg, only because they may breed resentment when you kick your boyfriends ass. He may pout about it for a few days.

But as a whole, this a strong list, including well known, Triple A titles, to independent developers. If you haven't played Monaco yet, I highly recommend it. It's a top-down sneaking game where you can play as one of 4 character types. Your goal is to win the heist for each level without getting caught. It's simplistic game play is well balanced with the stylized art, so you feel more involved in the action then you would anticipate.

The suggestion for Borderlands 2 is also great, but your partner needs to have a childish sense of humor. There's no way to avoid it.

- This last one will have you shaking your head at the utter failure in editing. Which is why it's so darn funny. The Nottingham Post released an op-ed by one of their staff writers, on the Top 10 Retro Games. If you're fooled by the images, I was to.

Whomever the editor was in regards to the digital content failed at it. Miserably. Most of the images do not properly reflect the content on the list. Final Fantasy 9 for Final Fantasy 7? Pokemon Sapphire for Red/Blue? Metal Gear Solid 2 for MGS1? And the images used for GTA3 are a modified version of a "fan remake" done through photoshop.

A 5 second Google search would have yielded better results. Way to go Nottingham Post. We will laugh at your failure today.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mobile Games: Konami's Future?

I didn't want to report on this until additional sources confirmed the news: Konami is going mobile.

Over the past few weeks we have seen some crazy things going down with the publisher. Hideo Kojima was ousted and MGS5: Phantom Pain will be the last product from him in the franchise. The Silent Hills game was canceled for seemingly no reason. Strange things were happening and now we know why.

In an interview with CEO Hideki Hayakawa, they want to peruse mobile games aggressively. They see the success it has had, and the future in it. As such, they are moving towards mobile games as their main platform of content. Not consoles.

This isn't along the lines of Nintendo where they are partnering up with app developers to create a handful of mobile games. They want to shift their company's focus to mobile gaming and lesson their presence on consoles.

It explains a lot, but why the shift? I'd imagine with Konami's reputation that they weren't exactly hurting in terms of the bottom line. Not when you can pay to have Kojima on the staff. It's all....mystifying. Maybe they see a future where consoles truly fade away and they want to be ahead of the curve?

The story will be updated as comments are receive by Konami.

Art and Mad Max

Not quite a Link Round-Up, but these are two stories that I wanted to call to attention and not let them pass by.

I'll start off with the head desk laughter that is Mad Max: Fury Road. Not the movie itself, but a small group of misogynists (and they call themselves as such, so please don't send hate mail my way) on the blog Return of Kings. They have called for a boycott of this action flick, that is 120 minutes of car chases and explosions. No really. Every critic is saying that, and they're perfectly okay with it. The movie doesn't try to shove anything else into your brain. You want 2 hours of fun? You got it!

So why would these misogynists want to boycott a notoriously male dominated feature? It's because of Charlize Theron. Her character is apparently "too feminist" for the blog's liking. She tough. She holds her own. She doesn't take crap from anyone, male or female. And for these few men, she's too intimidating and encroaching on stereotypical gender stereotypes. Oh no!

I recommend avoiding the comment section, but the article is still funny to read.

And secondly, street art! Specifically 8-bit art in Hong Kong by the artist Invader. Two years ago a movement to introduce art onto the streets of China was wiped out by the government. Now the reclusive artists is back with more gaming icons, and with the laws approval! His art is now appearing on street corners and in galleries, with Mario, Donkey Kong, and pixilated replicas of Bruce Lee. Really cool stuff. Check it out!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Minecraft Superiority

Just in case you needed additional clarification that Minecraft is one of the world's most played video games, YouTube announced late Wednesday some interesting stats over their 10 year life-cycle. One being that Minecraft is the most viewed, most-streamed game in YouTube's history.

Yep. The block building game is still maintaining it's interest in kids and adults alike, and doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon.

So you don't have to stray too far, here's the Top 10 list of most viewed video games on YouTube:

1. Minecraft
 2. Grand Theft Auto
3. League of Legends
4. Call of Duty
6. Garry's Mod
7. The Sims
8. Five Nights at Freddy's
9. Puzzles and Dragon
10. Dota 2

I've done quite a bit of digging and I wasn't able to locate a press release from YouTube directly to confirm numbers and stats. Mostly I was looking to clarify details such a which GTA, CoD, FIFA, and Sims are they referring to? Their Press Room leads to their "trending" blog that focuses on the rise of Let's Play videos and features PewDiePie in particular. I'll keep digging for the details.

What we do know from the announcement is that there are over 42 million YouTube videos involving Minecraft on YouTube. It's also the second most searched term. Because of the massive numbers involved, it would be interested to see if this comparing to one GTA (GTA5 being the most internet savy), or all of them, as a number of people do stream the earlier games to Twitch for speed runs.

42 million videos can't be wrong.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

EU Investigating Geo-Blocking of Video Games

On May 6th the ECC (European Competition Commission) released a new Digital Single Marketing Plan and launched an anti-trust investigation in one go. It was a lot of pages, so it took time to break down what they were getting at.

There are 2 things that the group wants to achieve with this plan. First, to establish a single European digital market so that all goods are available, equally. Second, to investigate claims of geo-blocking, and pursue action against it.

Geo-blocking is a tech barrier. It gives merchants the ability to charge more for goods and services based on geographic areas. Someone in Italy, for example, may have to pay more for an item on a French website. But that same item for a French customer would be cheaper. So what does this have to do with video games? Apparently games are the biggest offender. While many of the websites may show the publisher's price, as soon as you sign in from another country, the price fluctuates. Because no one is the wiser, people accept it and the merchants make more money.

The tricky part is that right now, technically, these sellers are not breaking any EU laws. Yet. Thus the need to investigate and see if they are breaking anti-trust rules. The EU's digital focus is to ensure the flow of information within borders, equally. The investigation will go beyond Europe's borders and may include U.S. companies as well. As of now nothing has been said regarding legal ramifications of those who may be found "guilty," but it is keeping publishers on edge.

If that is too much tech talk for the day, The Huffington Post has an op-ed regarding 'The Demise of Brick and Mortar Video Game Retailers.' I think they're looking at you, GameStop.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Credit Card Sized Console Now Crowdfunding

The Arduboy is now up on Kickstarter!

The mini hand-held system was designed by Kevin Bates to be the ultimate business card. A way to show people his skill as an engineer by handing them a gaming device instead of the standard paper/plastic card. Last year after a showing of the Aduboy at a small trade-show with Tetris, Bates decided the product was worth a risk. He quit his job, packed up and moved to China to refine the device.

The first 1,000 backers are able to pre-order the Arduboy. The Kickstarter is at 1,700+ donations so sorry folks. No pre-orders for you. But there are other perks still available, such as a laser-etched Arduboy, a Developers pack, and a Friend's pack (where you get 5 Arduaboy's for you and your pals).

The handheld device is an open platform to create, share, and play games on the size of a credit card. The game's main arcade system will contain free downloadable products. Because the algorithms in the system need to be simple due to the smaller size, the unit is being toted as a great way to get people interested in programming. The original design of visible wires is still in place, but with a more secure faceplate. It holds a 32KB Flash, a USB 2.0 port, and it's on the Arduino platform. So yes, you'll have to learn a new system to program, but for such a nifty piece of hardware, it's worth it.

It even has Bill Nye's approval. Clearly, it's full of win.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Psychologist Believes Boys Spending More Time With Games Bad For Humanity

Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo believes that young men are becoming more and more addicted to video games and porn that it is creating social isolation, and potentially harming future reproduction. seems like I've covered this story before. Maybe it's my imagination.

In speaking with the BBC Zimbardo commented that he studied the media habits of over 20,000 young men to come to this conclusion. His interview doesn't provide details as to how this was done, if this was over decades of research, or an internet poll. And his results are currently not published in an academic journal, but in his new book "Man (Dis)Connected." We'd be curious to find out 'how' exactly he handled this study. But Zimbardo comments that we are in a unique time of history where access to pornography is so easy that it creates further isolation.

“Now, with freely available pornography, which is unique in history, they are combining playing video games, and as a break, watching on average, two hours of pornography a week."

I no of know man who does this. They would prefer to play video games over watching porn, but to each his own. The book goes into the claim that boys today are having their brains "digitally rewired." They find themselves sticking closer to home and playing games because it's comfortable. They are growing up in these environments where they are told this type of behavior is okay, but apparently it's not: they won't have babies and the whole sexbot, Futurama episode comes to fruition.

I'm going to disagree with Mr. Zimbardo, but feel free to listen to his interview. It's entertaining a "he really can't believe this," scale.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Another Theme Park Announcement!

Following on the heels of Lionsgate and Disney, Nintendo hasannounced a partnership with Universal to bring their products to the park. The press release was issued early yesterday morning and is recently gaining some traction.

This isn’t just selling Nintendo products at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL. They will be designing and building attractions specifically catered to Nintendo characters and their fans. This is more of a literal embodiment of video games coming to life, versus integrating them into pre-existing attractions.

The press release doesn’t provide details on what’s to come. We HOPE there’s a Mario Kart ride. Not because it seems obvious, but throwing banana peels without receiving a littering citation would be fantastic. Nintendo’s goal is to help expand the reach and popularity of its products. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Mario vs. Sonic at Universal Studios game that comes from this.

So hold on to your passes. No construction or timeline details yet. It’ll be a few years down the road, but we’re looking forward to what they have to offer.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Investors Unsure but Activision Plows Ahead

In spite of their lower than expected sales and profits, Activision Blizzard is still pushing to shift their focus more towards online gaming. In its first-quarter fiscal earnings, released this week, $3 out of every $4 earned by the company were through online sales. These would be World of Warcraft subscriptions, purchasing game time for MMO’s, buying in-game items for Destiny, etc. It’s not strictly retail sales of the games themselves, but the add-on products that make up the bulk of the cash.

Activision also pointed out that over $1 billion in revenue was generated by two games: Destiny and Hearthstone at 50 million registered users. When 76% of your earnings are from online sales, you tend to want to focus on it.

This shift is becoming a trend for many in the industry, with the likes of EA and Take-Two Interactive also changing their marketing focus to online products. Micro transactions are the future of gaming, whether we like it or not. They add up over time to mean big bucks. This is why the latest Call of Duty is continuing to turn a profit. It’s no longer a “one and done” business. Games can have life for years with add-on content. I would argue that some content is just too much and requires more spacing out. Dragon Age: Inquisition comes to mind. A game with multiple classes, races, and choices that it could easily take a year to uncover every inch of the story. And the second add-on is well underway to be out soon. I’m still working on my second play-through guy! Hold off a bit, BioWare. Please!

On the trading floor, stocks didn't move for Activision after the earnings report, but it’s not stopping them from going ahead with the changes. The company feels there will be a sales increase by this summer, an project a $4.425 billion revenue outlook for the year.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Upside: Someone In Education Promoting Violent Video Games!

The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter. Catchy title, no?

This new book by Greg Toppo, a former teacher and education reporter, tackles the one topic that so many media seem to get wrong: kids and violent video games.  The book focuses on how video games are helping kids learn in new ways, and teach them to become adults who can adapt to solve problems. But what's getting people's attention is how the discussion on violent video games. In that yes, kids do know it's not real. And no, they don't make them more aggressive or want to kill people.

The Marshall Project's Dana Goldstein interviewed Toppo to gain a better understanding of his point of view and the facts to back it up.

Time to quote some of the favorites of the discussion?

Goldstein: You cite a federal report, written by the Secret Service and Department of Education, that investigated the habits of 41 school shooters. Only five, including the Columbine shooters, were deeply interested in violent games. Yet the perception that gaming is at least partly to blame for school violence remains widespread.

Toppo: What happened is that after Columbine, it became harder to get funding to study the cognitive benefits of gaming. All of a sudden, this was not something that had to be studied, it had to be controlled. It was really breathtaking. We’re just emerging from this in the past five years. But before Columbine, you could see a ton of research on things like how gaming can improve attention spans, reading comprehension, and visual acuity — really good bedrock research. 

Goldstein: So do you believe it could actually be good for this fearful boy to play violent games?

Toppo: Absolutely, for a number of reasons. Violent entertainment helps kids process the big fears they have. That predates video games by a century or more. What’s Superman but this weird manifestation of this fear we have that the world is going to end?

For supporters of violent games, the big argument is that everyone plays them. No really. Everyone plays them. Toppo mentions a few studies in the article. So if that's the case, then why isn't everyone running around like a mass murderer? It's because we all know it's a game. It's not real. We have no real interest in harming another living creature. Playing a game does not make us violent. We might be upset if we lose in Mario Kart, but that's nothing a few swear words can't fix. 

Thus equating a criminal to learning that behavior from games is just silly. It would be the same as saying "all drug addicts wear tennis shoes. Therefore, everyone who wears tennis shoes is a drug addict."

We know that's not the case, but that's essentially what people do. They lump violent video games into one category because it is the easiest way to comprehend a terrible situation. 

I highly recommend reading the article. It's good to see some academic perspectives on the support of violent video games.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Steam Greenlight Project Killed For Hate Towards Gays

Remember yesterday when it was mentioned that Steam developers now have the power to ban unruly players? It didn't absolve said developers from potential banning for putting out "hate related" content.

A game titled "Kill the F@gg0t" (I have intentionally changed the spelling of the word to 1337 Speak since I do not approve of the use of the word), drew such widespread condemnation from gamers that it was pulled within hours after it's Monday upload. The game was developed by a man named Randall Herman from California, a Christian shoe promoter. Why there are such a thing as "Christian shoes" I don't know. Why one would need to promote said shoes is even more puzzling. But according to Arts, the project was given the okay with Steam's Greenlight initiative. It's believed that the concept was written to look like a satire, when it's anything but.

The game is very crude, taking on an arcade shooter feel where your goal is to, what else, shoot gay and transgender individuals for points. And that's it. With unintelligent dialogue "Oops! I dropped the soap," this is anything but a funny game. It's just hate speech.

Herman's public profiles have been removed after the backlash, but he claims to have worked to help develop Call of Duty: Black Op's and Disney Infinity. He was listed as a QA on his LinkedIn profile for the companies involved in said titles, before that too was taken down.

It just goes to show that people will weasel themselves through any system to put their crap out there for the internet to consume.

Is this normal for Steam? Of course not. This is one game that got through the system that was meant to encourage independent developers and, somehow, it happened. Hopefully this won't force Steam to close off that portal.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Weekly Link Round-Up

We're starting early this week on the link round-up, because there are so many gems, and disappointments, on the internet that they must be shared all at once!

- First up, tales of a poor gamer. A poor female gamer, no less. It's a twist to the web comic and something I preach about quite often: fandom. Being a fan doesn't mean you have more or less money then someone else. It's the love that you have for it.

- Not Your Mama's Gamer has a double dose of feminism in gaming, centering around Twitch and Do Sexist Games = Sexist Gamer? The Twitch thing I understand. Being a woman and putting yourself out there for people to watch you is a tricky business. You want to be taken seriously, but you can't report the idiotic comments for fear of losing your fan-base. Being a chick sucks sometimes.

- Last week we mentioned that the Internet Archive allowed you to tweet classic games. Twitter's recent update now no longer allows that option because the links were against the site's Terms of Service. Interactive Widgets are not allowed. But...isn't Twitter an interactive Widget, in essence?

- Kotaku makes that argument that today, May the 4th, the best Star Wars game is Dark Forces.

Okay. I can buy that.

- Paste Magazine claims that video games have a pessimism problem. It looks at games like Lara Croft and Uncharted, seemingly normal people wading through temples of filth. Is this where games are going? It's an article that yearns for the past, while ironically stating that the problem is not with the characters but with us, the gamers. Who's being pessimistic now?

- Are you a Steam content creator? Well there's some good news for you. You can now ban people who are disruptive. Yep! If Steam's system isn't enough to keep the bad eggs out, you now have the power to ban players that are wreaking havoc in your game. Developers only, kids. Sorry.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Female Avatar Now a Default in Minecraft

Guess what? Thar be a woman in Minecraft now!

Starting with today's update, there will be a second default character for those not wishing to be Minecraft Steve. We now have a Minecraft Alex. Console gamers will receive the skin during the next update.

"When most players begin their Minecraft adventure there aren’t many looks to choose from. In fact, you only get to play as our blue-shirted friend. Now, everyone loves Steve – he’s probably the most famous minecrafter in the world, and has excellent stubble.

But jolly old Steve doesn’t really represent the diversity of our playerbase. For that reason, we’re giving all players opportunity to play with an Alex skin instead. She brings thinner arms, redder hair, and a ponytail; she actually looks a bit like Jens from certain angles." Mojang Company Blog.

Before I hear the rally of fan-boy cries, I'm fully aware that this is not the first female skin in the game. Many of the downloadable packs, such as Mass Effect, gave you a female option. But this is the first female character provided as a default option. You are not stuck with the male avatar.

Minecraft was designed to be a genderless game. As lofty of an idea as that sounds, let's face it. We do not live in that type of world and people want to see more equal representation of their race/gender/religion/sexuality in the media content they consume. Minecraft can still be about punching trees and the art of building blocks, but it's good to see that we don't have to default to the only male avatar of the game.