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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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Why the Red Cross cares how video games treat war crimes

War has laws; why can't war games reflect them?It's a simple question that the International Committee of the Red Cross has been weighing for nearly two years. Under the Geneva Conventions, the Red Cross is mandated to protect the victims of international and internal armed conflict. During the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva in 2011, a committee discussed whether the Geneva and Hague conventions should be applied to the fictional recreation of war in video games. In other words, they wanted video war games to better reflect the realities of modern combat. Last summer, the International Review of the Red Cross published an article that more deeply examined the issue. The takeaway was that video games are an important method for disseminating...
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The cult of the cookie clicker: When is a game not a game?

There's a growing obsession online with cookies, imaginary chocolate chip cookies.In early August, avant-garde game developer Orteil put his latest prototype online: Cookie Clicker. In the free game, players have to click on a cookie to produce a cookie. Those cookies can, in turn, be used to increase cookie production through the purchase of virtual grandmas, farms, time machines and the like. There is no goal in the game beyond producing cookies at an ever increasing rate. My game, for instance, currently produces a smidge more than 28 billion cookies a second. What makes this particular web-based game so intriguing is that once a player purchases the first in-game item the game can play itself, producing cookies with no interaction. Despite the fact that Cookie Clicker only...
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International conference examines, hopes to combat in-game hate speech

This week a group of game makers, game players and academics are gathering in Budapest to discuss and work towards solving the growing problem of hate speech within video gaming communities.The GameOver Hate conference hopes to help establish recommendations for the development of better online gaming communities in an effort to fix what the organizers say are becoming "toxic and dangerous environments" where "sexist, racism, general bigotry and abuse may flourish without control." The week-long international conference was organized by the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue and Integration and the Youth Department of the Council of Europe as part of a larger, years-long international campaign against online hate speech. The gathering is the brainchild of Martin Fischer and David...
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Dan Houser on Grand Theft Auto 5's relevancy and future

The last big Grand Theft Auto arrived to universal acclaim, becoming one of the highest rated video games in history. It was a console-defining title, an interactive sandbox of cultural satire that, according to the New York Times, set a new standard for what is possible in interactive arts.But a lot has changed since 2008. Grand Theft Auto 5 lands months away from the launch of new, paradigm-shifting consoles, squarely into an evolved gaming landscape that now includes massive mobile hits, a thriving indie game scene and a singular Goliath in the Call of Duty franchise. I sat down with Rockstar Games co-founder Dan Houser at his New York offices recently to ask him how he thinks the beloved series fits into this new Hollywood of video games. Is, I wanted to know, Grand Theft Auto...
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Wind Waker HD and the pursuit of perfection

The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo's most important series, so it's no wonder that the company has three in the works right now, all helmed by the same man: Eiji Aonuma.Aonuma is busy at work on an as yet to be named new Wii U game as well as The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for the 3DS. But it is the remake of 2003's The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker that seems to have most of Aonuma's attention right now. He worries that remastering the game for an HD system, going in to tinker with the way it plays, looks and feels, could be akin to George Lucas remastering and re-releasing his classic Star Wars titles in 1997, a move that wasn't very well received. "That's something I'm very concerned about, I'm always thinking about," he told Polygon in a recent interview. "With W...
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Death threats don't just scare away developers, they also stop important conversations

It hasn't metastasized yet. But there is a malignant growth eating away at the video game industry.Angry, petty, self-entitled gamers, a small but disproportionately noisy group, are slowly trying to take over the conversation in the world of video games. This minority of gamers so viciously attack game makers, often threatening to kill them, kill their children, financially ruin their lives, that some game developers have decided to leave the industry while other future developers are weighing whether to enter it at all. The real impact this has on real people is terrible, but so is the secondary impact this form of harassment has on the industry. This cyberharassment doesn't just tear down developers, it also derails the important conversations that should be happening between game...
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Getting out of the way of independent developers could be Xbox One's biggest innovation

Last week, months after botching the reveal of its new console, Microsoft accidentally announced what could be the Xbox One's most important feature.Within a year of launching the console, the company promises, every Xbox One can become a tool for creating games, allowing any game player to become a game maker. While the details, important details like how the money made is divvied up and how much it will cost to publish a game, aren't set to be revealed until late August, the news seems to signal a sea change in the platform holder's philosophy. The policy hints at the notion that Microsoft no longer wants to be a gatekeeper, because that approach simply doesn't scale. And that a company with an arguably contentious relationship with independent developers, wants to make things easier....
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Time is gaming's biggest cost; here's one solution

Game makers expect a lot from the people who play their games. Certainly more so than most other forms of mainstream entertainment.When you go to a movie you're not expected to know how to operate anything other than the seat, and perhaps a pair of 3D glasses. Conceptualizing the deeper meanings aside, when reading a book, the most you need to be good at is turning a page. But to fully realize and enjoy a video game, players are expected to have a base level of expertise maneuvering in virtual environments with a confusion of buttons and thumbsticks. Players are also often expected to have some understanding of the genre itself and its visual vocabulary. Shooters mean moving with one thumbstick and aiming with another, while shooting to kill and dodging in coming fire, all in...
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