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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 tomb 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...
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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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This game tracks your fear and teaches you how to master it

Nevermind is made up of the stuff of nightmares, literally.First created as a master's thesis project at USC's Interactive Media Program, Nevermind is a game that virtually drops you into the terrors of a trauma patient and uses the player's real heart rate to tweak the difficulty of the game and hone its ability rattle the player. Now, developer Erin Reynolds wants to turn Nevermind into a full-fledged game and, perhaps, a tool for healing the traumatized. Earlier this year, Reynolds launched a Kickstarter seeking a quarter of a million dollars to help realize her dream. With about a week left, and nearly $200,000 to raise, Reynolds remains optimistic about her chances of succeeding. "I'm really excited that I'm getting to take Nevermind to it's full vision and improving on it from...
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Video games are losing the culture war in America, scientific visionary says

A culture war is raging in the United States right now and video games are losing.That's according to Gilman Louie, former video game developer, founder of a venture capital firm that works with U.S. intelligence agencies, and advisor to the CIA, NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency. Louie, who founded and ran Spectrum HoloByte before leaving the business of game development, was named one of fifty scientific visionaries by Scientific American in 2002. "The anti-gaming establishment owns the vocabulary and have done a very successful job of convincing many that interactive games are harmful (especially to children) and that screen time is to blame for most of the social ills," Louie tells Polygon. "Whether it be the awful events that took place at Sandy Hook or bullying in schools,...
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Say Happy Valentine's by sending a personalized video game

People have been proposing marriage via video games for years. Gamers and developers have used hacked versions of Japanese role-playing games or classic Mario titles to ask for someone's hand. They've popped the question in Halo 3 or with the help of a chatty robot in Borderlands. Developers have even created their own games, from charming retro titles to a psychological horror game, to ask, "Will you marry me?"But Ard Bonewald wants to democratize the process. Why do you have to be a developer to create a personalized game to propose marriage, or wish someone a happy Valentine's Day, or to get well soon? "I would see that people were asking their girlfriends to marry them using a game they had made or the favorite game of their girlfriend," said Bonewald, chief executive officer and...
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Xbox Fitness hosts nearly 1.5M workouts in two months, looks to other platforms

The Xbox One has been home to nearly a million and a half virtual workouts since the console launched in November, thanks to the Xbox Fitness app, according to Microsoft."We've been pretty happy with the pick up," said Dave McCarthy, general manager for Lifestyle Entertainment at Microsoft Studios. "I'm feeling really positive." While the success of the program continues to fuel tweaks and new content, McCarthy declined to say what it will mean for the cost of the service in the coming year. Xbox Fitness is a monthly fitness subscription service that, at least until the end of the year, is included for free with the paid Xbox Live Gold membership on Xbox One. The service features a slew of video workouts from popular fitness trainers and programs like Jillian Michaels, Tracy...
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Study: Why anonymity makes players cheat, but can still be a good thing

Anonymity, long thought to be one of the reasons people misbehave in online games and online in general, may actually be a powerful tool for correcting bad behavior, according to researchers in Singapore.In a recently published study into the effects of player anonymity on cheating in online games, Vivian Hsueh-hua Chen and Yuehua Wu found that players cheat because the online gaming groups they belong to view cheating as an acceptable behavior. More importantly, the study found that because players were anonymous in these groups, the influence that the groups' views of certain behaviors had on its members was very powerful. In other words, the anonymity associated with many online gaming communities reinforces that group's own powerful set of social norms and makes those who belong to...
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Scavenger Hunts, Crossword puzzles could come to Nintendo's StreetPass service

Nintendo has a problem in the U.S. They've created a wonderful portable device that people don't seem interested taking with them when they leave the house.It's not that people don't want to take their games with them, it's that they often don't want to take their gaming devices with them. For many, the ubiquity of smartphones and the rising quality of the games you can play on them, replaces the need to take a gadget with you designed to game and only game. Sony looked to get around that issue by turning their PlayStation Vita into an on-the-go entertainment device. It has a high resolution screen, plays movies, music and can deliver games that look and feel like the sort you might play on your television. Nintendo's approach to the 3DS, and now 2DS, problem is a bit more fanciful,...
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VGX was Viacom's experiment for future award shows

This week Viacom rebooted the annual Spike TV Video Game Awards after a 10-year run.And while the results still didn't manage to win over gamers, or much of their audience if you consider the reaction on Twitter, the VGX show might still prove a worthwhile investment for the international media company. In many ways the retooling of the VGAs, a two-hour show televised live on Spike each year, into the VGX, a three-hour "experience" viewable only on websites and streaming services, was a great way for the media goliath to experiment with award shows. While Viacom certainly appears to be committed to the video game show, they have a lot of other award shows that can also take some lessons from the first VGX and the way it used technology to massively increase their potential audience. S...
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The Wii U proves you should wait before buying a new console

The next generation in gaming is officially five to 10 years away.The Wii U, launched last year, and the PS4 and Xbox One, which both hit earlier this month, are now the status quo in gaming. Or at least that's what the companies behind those consoles want you to think. But the reality is that rushing to the newest piece of gaming hardware isn't always the best idea. This "now generation" of consoles is a perfect example of why waiting is sometimes the best decision. Sony's PlayStation 4 comes with arguably the best first-party gaming controller on the market. The console itself, a beefy bit of technology that can for the time being compete with gaming computers, also brings with it a meaningful change in the way Sony views gaming. Where console games used to be the product of...
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PS4 and Xbox One parental controls aren't quite as forward thinking as they could be

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One clearly represent the future of living room gaming, but the parental controls both consoles offer aren't quite as forward thinking.Both consoles have revamped how parents can limit the sorts of entertainment experiences they can experience with differing results. The PlayStation 4's biggest parenting downfall is that consoles with multiple users ( like a family with children), a parent has to create sub accounts for their children. The sub accounts, and all of the content purchased with them, can never be converted into a "master account." Essentially, your children will never be able to grow up on the PS4, not without ditching all of the online content they purchased and starting over. That aside, the PS4's parental controls are a bit confused. They're...
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Ouya searches for a niche in the shadow of the PS4 and Xbox One

Conceived as a paradigm-shifting microconsole designed to fight the flood of mobile games by bringing them to the TV, one could assume that the Ouya faces its greatest challenge this holiday with the twin release of powerful, entertainment-centric gaming consoles PS4 and Xbox One.But Ouya founder Julie Uhrman says that's not the case and is already looking ahead, not just past the latest next-gen consoles, but to the next half decade when the idea of needing to place a physical box under your TV to play games might become a thing of the past.. "I always feel that Ouya is a 'buy me too' product," Uhrman said. "It is a low cost console where all of the games are free to try. I don't think you'll buy an Xbox One or Ouya, you might buy an Xbox One and buy Ouya because you really want to...
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Why video games can make for great comics (and vice versa)

Unlike the uneasy relationship between movies and video games, comics seem to know how to deliver creative, expansive takes on the fiction made for game consoles.Earlier this month at New York Comic Con, fans had a chance to check out a plethora of video game-inspired comics and comic-inspired video games from The Walking Dead to Mass Effect to Marvels' many creations. While video games rely on cutting edge technology to deliver their virtual environments, comics fall back on the most ancient of art forms, but the people who work in both mediums say each have their own unique strengths and even some similarities. "The process of building game story outlines for comics is a lot like building a story in video games," said Halo franchise development director Frank O'Connor. Even the end...
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