Good Game

Video games trick you into thinking you're in control, and that's bad

I can give you control of this story by simply writing five words: A man enters a room.Instantly your mind is racing, giving substance to that room, life to that man. Perhaps it's a wood paneled room with plush velvet carpeting and a roaring fireplace, or it's bitterly cold in a castle keep, or the room is sheets of riveted steel, soulless, lost deep in space. The man is 20. No, he's 90. He's missing a leg. He's blind. He's wearing a tux. But drop into the digital skin of that man, a specific soldier in a battle standing in a forest in Call of Duty: Ghosts, and that sense of control is gone, gone despite the very real control you have over him with a gamepad. You see, video games expect a lot of you, but deliver very little actual agency in return. In fact, without you at the gamepad...
Good Game

Fixing chess: One game developer's redesign of a 1,500-year-old game

The weekend's chess matches with my father ended as they always do, but with a twist.I lost, mostly, but it wasn't to a checkmate. Instead it happened four times when he managed to get both of his warrior kings across the board's midline. That last midline crossing happened despite my defensive line of elephants, wild horse and pawns. This is Chess 2, a chess variant created by MIT grad and famed game designer David Sirlin and given computer game life by developer Zac Burns, to correct what Sirlin views as major design flaws in the original board game. There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of chess variants like Chess 2 in the world. Creating new rules for one of history's oldest games is a popular exploration for the cerebral sport. Sirlin's own take on chess was inspired by...
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Ulysses as video game could make it more approachable, but not replace it, scholars say

An award-winning Irish filmmaker and animator just received crowd-sourced funding to kickstart his work turning James Joyce's Ulysses into a virtual reality video game.The concept is to immerse players in Joyce's stream of consciousness by dropping them into the shoes of the work's two protagonists Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Eoghan Kidney writes on funding site FundIt that his in Ulysses project will allow users to "inhabit the characters of Ulysses and experience the density of Joyce's language in a fun and accessible way." On the most basic of levels, Ulysses narrates a day in the life of Dublin through the thoughts, travels and actions of Dedalus and Bloom. But Joyce's stream-of-consciousness writing, layered with allusion, reference and parody, attracted a massive...
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HBO documentary examines addiction, ethics of game design in shadow of child's death

Her name means love in Korean.Three-month-old Sarang died in her sleep of malnutrition. The five-and-a-half pound baby wasted away while her parents spent their nights playing Prius Online, raising a virtual child in a Korean cyber cafe as they neglected their real one at home. Love Child, a documentary about the 2010 death and the culture surrounding it, starts airing on HBO this week. Director Valerie Veatch, also the director behind HBO's ME @the Zoo, told Polygon that her documentary isn't meant to be an attack on the game industry, but instead a way to spark an important dialog. Are video games addictive? Do game developers have an ethical responsibility in how they bring their creations to life? What role should gamers have in the shape those games take? There are no...
Good Game

$10 million computer game championship highlights the evolution of eSports

What started out as a computer game publicity stunt four years ago has quickly become one of the largest professional gamer competitions in the world, this year selling out tickets to a 12,000-seat arena in less then one hour and rewarding nearly $11 million in prize money.The grand finals for The International, an annual Dota 2 championship hosted by game creator Valve Corporation, kicks off this week in Seattle and is set to deliver the largest prize pool in eSports history. "For almost all of these things, like The International or a specific feature in the game, it's hard to figure out who came up with it," said Valve's Erik Johnson. "I'm sure it was in a meeting." In Dota 2, like most strategy games in the popular multiplayer online battle area genre, two teams of five...
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A video game rock opera that can be played on a PC or watched live in a concert hall

All video games are a sort of tenuous performance art, requiring players to take on the role of both audience and performer as they inhabit an interactive story designed to create a shared experience.From pellet-chomping Pac-Man to Uncharted's artifact hunting Nathan Drake, video game characters are vessels designed to transport gamers into a world created to mingle play and narrative; a sort of participatory storytelling blended with more traditional, passive consumption. And as game creators continue to explore their medium, the role of gamers continues to evolve. Take, for instance, Karmaflow. Karmaflow is both a music-themed video game for PC and Mac and a touring interactive rock opera. Whether played at home or viewed in a concert hall, the musical performance and the show's...
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McDonald's rolls out 1.5 billion fry boxes for augmented-reality World Cup video game

In what may be the largest mainstream roll out of an augmented-reality game in history, McDonald's has been selling fries in a redesigned container that is used as a goal in a trick-shot soccer game.The international fast-food chain printed 1.5 billion fry boxes to replace the iconic red boxes used in 119 countries as part of their celebration of the FIFA World Cup. To play, a gamer has to download the free app on a smartphone or tablet and once in the game, aim the camera at the soccer-decorated fry box. The game then turns the real world view of a box of fries sitting on a table into a soccer scene. The box becomes the goal and the table the pitch. The object of the game is to flick the virtual ball displayed on the screen into the goal. As players progress the game adds animated...
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As game players diversify, developers start to rethink the stars of their games

As video games continue to become a massive, mainstream form of entertainment, the sorts of people playing games continue to diversify.Increasingly those players who aren't white and male — the stereotypical view of who plays video games — are asking why they don't have the ability to play the games they love as characters that they can more easily identify with. Why isn't there more diversity in the fictional worlds of video games, where players can be anything that game-makers imagine? The topic, specifically the lack of realistic female protagonists in blockbuster games, became a major talking point at this year's E3 after the people behind the next installment of massive hit series Assassin's Creed said they abandoned women assassins in the cooperative mode of their game because...
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Mario's creator is fighting for the heart of the Wii U, but it might be too late

It's been more than one year, a very rocky year, since I sat down with Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto to discuss the future of the company he helped shape with creations like Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and Star Fox.There was an awkward moment in the beginning of that spring 2013 interview when I suddenly realized that I didn't know the official title for Miyamoto, a man who I've interviewed countless times and perhaps the most recognizable game maker in the world. That moment became more awkward when it became apparent that Miyamoto didn't really know his own title either. I suppose officially he has one, something like senior game developer, but unofficially he is the soul of the beloved company, its smiling face, its heart. And that was never more apparent in that spring meeting then...
Good Game

Is this the death of the cable box?

Two and a half years ago, Microsoft finally took their first big step toward a goal it had been pursuing for nearly a decade: making your cable box obsolete.This month, Microsoft showed off another major milestone in that fight: A season of television originals created to appeal to millennial gamers by Microsoft's internal Xbox Entertainment Studios. This is, for better or worse, the birth of Xbox TV. But it's important to recognize that Microsoft isn't interested in becoming your cable provider: That's a dead end. Microsoft knows it, companies like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon know it. There's even a lot of evidence that cable providers like Comcast know that the business of providing television shows locked to a specific day, a specific time, a specific device, is not long of this...
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Games for Change goes mainstream with the help of Tribeca Film Festival

The Games for Change Festival is changing thanks to a last-minute partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival. The more than decade-long annual game festival, seen by some as the Sundance of video games, is both narrowing the focus of its presentation and broadening the context of its content and in so doing, organizers hope, highlighting the ubiquity and importance of gaming in everything from education and health to science and entertainment."It definitely raised the bar," said Games for Change co-president Asi Burak. "It's putting a spotlight on everything this community is doing on the largest stage we've ever had." This year's festival has been redesigned from the bottom up, with changes in everything from how the talks were selected, to the way the presentations will take place,...
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How gaming is reshaping the way museums teach

The success of most video games are measured by how fun they are, not so the games of New York's American Museum of Natural History.Here if a game is too fun, too engaging, it can create problems. Gaming has slowly become an important part of museum exhibit design, right alongside artifacts, fossils, movies, music and other forms of interaction. And not surprisingly, the American Museum of Natural History continues to push the envelope on how gaming can be used to engage and educate. Past exhibits with game-like elements include the museum's poison display, which features challenges that ask patrons to figure out how animals died and a massive tome placed on a pedestal that animates when the pages are flipped to tell a moving, interactive story. But the latest games to invade the...
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Amazon's Fire TV plays games, but it's no console contender, at least not yet

Amazon's Fire TV is a bold step into the hardware business by a company defined by its ability to deliver content to customers quickly and efficiently. The diminutive device streams movies, music, pictures and even video games to a television.But it's not a device designed by the company to go up against video game consoles, which can do much of the same. Where the PlayStation 4, Wii U and Xbox One all have the ability to stream media to a TV, they are gaming devices first. Not so for the Fire TV, Amazon officials tell Polygon. The Fire TV is a streaming media device with its sights set clearly on other similar products like Apple TV, Google's Chromecast or Roku, they said. Video games are, as Amazon vice president Peter Larson said during the event, a "bonus." "On top of the core...
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When is a game not a game?

Perhaps not an overwhelming commercial success, one of last year's most intriguing critical video game success stories was a game about an empty home and the story it told to a returning daughter.With no violence, no action, no threat, no way to die or be hurt, Gone Home still managed to captivate its audience, receiving accolades and nominations for game of the year from websites, newspapers, magazines, the industry and, most recently, even the Games for Change conference. But for some, one odd question remains: Is Gone Home a video game? Unlike with movies, music and literature, the thing that defines video games still remains, in some corners, a debated issue. Gone Home is a game of exploration and narration, an effective vehicle for story telling. But its lack of puzzles and...
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Sony looks to the 'social screen' to make virtual reality popular

One of the keys to launching a successful virtual reality headset is to turn the isolating technology into a social experience, said Shuhei Yoshida, head of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios.Last week, Yoshida unveiled Sony's Project Morpheus during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Project Morpheus is a virtual reality headset that rests on a user's head and slips onto their face like ski goggles or a snorkel mask. Inside the mask is a single high definition screen that displays a view of a virtual world. Tracking technology allows the user to look around by moving their head. The still-experimental device is designed to plug into a PlayStation 4. While Project Morpheus isn't the first functioning virtual reality headset designed for gaming, it's certainly...
Good Game

How video games and augmented reality could cure phantom pain

For the most part, phantom limbs and the pain they can feel remain a medical mystery. No one is quite sure why a person who has lost a limb might feel like they can move it or be tormented by stabbing muscle cramps and searing pain in that nonexistent appendage. But a researcher in Sweden is getting closer to finding a cure for phantom pain thanks to an experimental muscle mapping treatment that uses augmented reality to trick the brain into thinking a missing arm is back, and video games that have a player steer a car with a missing hand. Max Ortiz-Catalan is a PhD candidate at Chalmers University of Technology and the Centre of Orthopaedic Osseointegration at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden with a master's in science. He designed a system that combines advanced myoelectric...
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