Tag Archives: Videogames

Retro Video Game Characters Invade New York


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Classic video game characters such as Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Frogger invade the Big Apple in this amazing little short film.

It’s called Pixels and was written and directed by Patrick Jean from visual effects company One More Production.

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Opinions, Truthiness and Violence in Video Games


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Here’s a quote from Blake’s 7:

VILA: “I’m entitled to my opinion.”
AVON: “It is your assumption that we are entitled to it as well that is irritating.”

And here is a quote from acclaimed sci-fi author Harlan Ellison:

“We are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble. It’s like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks.”

All of which is by way of an introduction to the subject of this post – violence in video games. Yep, that old chestnut.

Despite the fact that studies suggest that the average age of a gamer is now anything from 25 to 35, some people still find it shocking that some games are made for adults and not kids.

This is because some people are opinionated, ill-informed idiots. They are ignorant of the state of the video game industry, the policing of that industry and the failure of any credible study to find any significant link between violence in games and violence in real life. Yet these people know that, despite a lack of evidence, video games corrupt our kids and turn them into sadistic, racist killers.

Which brings us to this clip from an edition of The Alan Titchmarsh Show that aired last week on ITV1. Timed to coincide with an event celebrating the artistic and technical merits of gaming, the BAFTA Video Games awards, the show used that positive representation of gaming as its jumping-off point to lambast the industry for corrupting children.

It starts off with the host criticising videogames for not having a rating system similar to movies – they do – and goes rapidly downhill from there, as Computer & Video Games editor Tim Ingham finds himself under attack from Titchmarsh and his regular guest Julie Peasgood, both of whom are armed to the teeth with opinions and spurious, unsubstantiated “facts”. Watch and weep:

Both Titchmarsh and Peasgood state a number of “facts” about videogames that are what satirical US comedian Stephen Colbert would label as “truthiness“. Truthiness refers satirically to “facts” that are intuitively correct without support of logic or reason. Truthiness refers to the kind of facts you look up in your gut, not in books. To quote Colbert:

Anybody who knows me knows I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books – they’re elitist, constantly telling us what is or isn’t true or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I want to say it was happened in 1941, that’s my right.
I don’t trust books. They’re all fact, no heart. And that’s exactly what’s pulling our country apart today. ‘Cause face it, folks: we are a divided nation. Not between Democrats and Republicans, or Conservatives and liberals, or tops and bottoms. No. We are divided between those who think with their head, and those who know with their heart.

‘Cause that’s where the truth comes from ladies and gentlemen. The gut.
Do you know you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up. Now somebody’s gonna say, “I did look that up and it’s wrong.” Well mister, that’s cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did. And my gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.

Back to the Titchmarsh interview and according to Peasgood, videogames are “addictive”, “promote hatred, racism, sexism”, make kids “less caring” and “cause low self-esteem and depression”. She also states that “there is a proven link between behavioural violence and video game violence”.

That’s truthiness in its purist form, right there.

Surprisingly perhaps, the normally reactionary Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of The Sun newspaper, was less opinionated, albeit expressing concern about the realism of the violence portrayed in videogames and where it was going. He did, however, falsely state that videogames had influenced one of the killers of toddler James Bulger in 1993. To be fair, rather than employing truthiness, he may have simply been confusing videogames with “video nasties” – the tabloid media at the time persistantly suggested that the horror film Child’s Play 3 had influenced the Bulger killers, despite the fact that any link between the case and video nasties was dismissed by both the home office and the police.

Getting back to Peasgood, I have to admit that I had never heard of her until yesterday. She is an actress-cum-TV presenter who regularly appears on the Titchmarsh show as his resident “sexpert”.

We could perhaps excuse the pair’s ill-informed ranting and rampant truthiness if we assumed it was motivated by a genuine concern and heartfelt belief that our kids are being corrupted by objectionable content in videogames, films and the media in general.

However, that is a little hard to reconcile with this clip of the wholesome family entertainment served up by the pair during a show that airs on one of the UK’s two main TV channels at 5pm in the afternoon (that’s except for viewers in Scotland, who’ve got their own programs):

What’s that you say? The Alan Titchmarsh Show isn’t intended for children? Well, neither are violent video games with an 18 certificate. Parents have a responsibility to monitor and prevent their kids watching unsuitable TV content? The same surely applies to parents taking responsibility for monitoring and controlling their kids’ videogaming.

The above clip shows a very petty and fairly trivial sort of hypocrisy from Titchmarsh and Peasgood. Their sex toys feature is “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” stuff. It’s hardly soft porn and it’s certainly not going to corrupt or damage anyone – though, given the time it aired, it might have led to embarrassment and some uncomfortable questions for parents of kids who happened to see it.

Actually, having said it’s not damaging, the sight of Alan Titchmarsh playfully putting a dildo up to his ear may well have an undesirable effect on you libido… or at the very least, given the show’s timeslot, put you off your tea.

More seriously, though, a worse, more distasteful form of hypocrisy was uncovered by the Twitterverse and reported by C&VG yesterday. During the debate, Peasgood self-righteously states:

I am categorically against violence as entertainment. It is just wrong.

Which is fair enough. She’s entitled to that belief – even if it does seem to dismiss many classic movies, TV shows and novels in one fell swoop.

However, such a strident, uncompromising moral statement is hard to swallow from an actress who was happy to lend her voice to a 2000 survival horror video game called Martian Gothic: Unification, a game whose storyline revolves around humans living on Mars who are transformed into flesh-eating zombies and see the player as their next meal.

Here are a couple of screen shots from the game (don’t panic, kids – this was the year 2000 and although we thought graphics like this were cool and state of the art, we know better now…):

It seems that Julie is morally outraged by and categorically against violence as entertainment… unless she is getting aid to take part in it.

For the final word, I draw your attention to Ms Peasgood’s Wikipedia entry, as it stood last night, which revealed a hidden, if very apt, talent (click on the top image for a full-size version):

To that, I would only add that she is also clearly exceptionally good at farting in wind tunnels, folks…

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Does The Birth Of OnLive = The Death Of The Videogame Console?


Could the current generation of games consoles be the last? Are the days of having to fork out £1000+ for a cutting-edge, high-end gaming PC numbered?

Well, the answer to both questions might just might be “yes”, if OnLive can prove itself.

After seven years in top-secret development, OnLive was officially unveiled last night (Tuesday) in San Francisco, where the annual Game Developers Conference is taking place this week.

What is OnLive? If you’re familiar with “cloud computing“, you’ll have a fair idea already. Essentially, it is a service that allows you to play the latest videogames online without the need for a game disk or even the game code on your hard drive.

How It Works (Click on image for a larger version):

PC gamers who use Steam and console gamers who use Mirosoft’s XBox Live or Sony’s Playstation Network are already familiar with the idea of buying digital copies of games from online stores and downloading them direct to their hard drive. OnLive takes the concept one step further.

You pay for the game but you don’t actually download the code. The service works by running the game for you remotely on a powerful server somewhere on the internet. This then sends to you only the data you need to display the game on your monitor and to interpret your controller input and send it back to the server.

In essence, the internet becomes your games hardware. So there’s no need for a console or for a high-end personal computer with a powerful graphics processor. A bog-standard, cheap, low-end machine is fine, they say – and the games will all work on both PCs and Macs.

In fact you don’t even need a computer at all. You can plug a small electronic gizmo – a “micro-console” the size of a pack of cards (above, with the OnLive controller) – into your large-screen HDTV and Bob’s your uncle, you’re ready to go. We’re told the box won’t be expensive – in fact, it may even be given away free when you subscribe to the service.

Yes, you will have to pay a monthly or annual fee to use the service – but then, that’s the way XBox Live works at the moment, although the PlayStation Network and online PC gaming are free.

The games you can play are not limited to simple ones such as Tetris or Bubble Bobble. Far from it. The demo shown to journalists in the run-up to the launch, for example, was Crysis (below), one of the most graphically-advanced, processor-intensive PC games out there. And at the Games Developers Conference the system will be up and running with 16 recent, cutting-edge games being played live on the floor.

What you do need, of course, is a broadband connection. And that may be where OnLive faces its biggest stumbling block, assuming all the other underlying technology is sound.

Anyone who plays games online at the moment knows it can be a frustrating experience, even with most of the processing being done on your end. Sometimes it’s due to problems with the game servers you are connecting to but, most of the time, the weak link is your broadband connection.

Depending on where you live, broadband performance can be patchy to say the least. Even if you have a good, stable connection, oversubscribed networks and throttling by the providers can slow internet traffic to a relative crawl.

However, OnLive’s trump card, the innovation powering their potentially revolutionary technology, is a major breakthrough in data compression technology that allows them to push a lot more data through the pipe a lot quicker than has been possible up until now.

As a result, they say that their service will work fine with a mere 2Mb connection, if you are happy with standard definition graphics. Even for High Definition, they say all you need is a 5Mb connection (one slight downside is that, currently only 720p HD is supported, not 1080p – but some have long argued that there is so little noticable difference in the visual results that it makes no odds).

So, a 5Mb connection will give you smooth, glitch-free, HD OnLive gaming. In the UK, the cheapest, entry-level connection Virgin Media now offer now is “up to” 10Mb. Cable internet speeds are generally quite stable regardless of where you live – but if you are in a heavily populated area, you may not get the full 10Mb due to the number of people using the network. Virgin also offer “up to” 20Mb and are in the process of rolling out their 50Mb service. And according to this report by the BBC yesterday, they are already planning a 150Mb service.

Of course, these speeds are for cable customers. Those who have to rely on ADSL broadband through a standard BT phone line or the equivalent are still stuck with “up to” 8Mb. And much moreso than cable customers, ADSL speeds fluctuate wildly depending on where you live, as the signal deteriorates rapidly the further you are from the telephone exchange. However, BT is in the process of improving its infrastructure and aims to roll out speeds of 40Mb to 60Mb between 2010 and 2012.

Whoever you get your broadband from, and regardless of the speed you can potentially get for your money, network congestion can be a major problem due to the number of customers competing for the limited bandwidth – so much so that many broadband providers either cap the amount you can download each month or “throttle” your connection if you download or upload too much during the busiest hours of the day.

If OnLive needs a 5Mb connection and it is using most of that 5Mb to shift data at all times during a gaming session, you will trigger your throttling (or “traffic management” as the providers like to euphemistically call it) limit very quickly if you are on one of the lower connection speeds or use up all your download for a month in a few days. Either way, you won’t be able to play.

For example, on a 10Mb Virgin Media connection, currently if you download more than 1200MB between 4pm and 9pm, your connection speed will be cut to just 2.5Mb for five hours. At a flat-out 5Mb, you can download 1200MB in about 40 minutes.

Another issue OnLive may have to contend with is asynchronous broadband. This means that your upload speed is a lot lower than your download speed. For example, on Virgin’s 10Mb download service, your upload speed is only around 0.5Mb. Presumably OnLive needs a lot less upload bandwidth than the download speed – but is 0.5Mb enough?

So much for the weak link.

On the plus side, OnLive finally makes cross-platform gaming possible. You can play online with anyone, regardless of whether they or you are using a PC, Mac or the plug-in TV box.

Many of the big games publishers – including Electronic Arts, THQ, Take-Two Interactive, Codemasters, Eidos, Atari, Warner Bros., Epic Games and Ubisoft – have signed up to the service. And why wouldn’t they? It is potentially the answer to all their problems. It cuts down on their distribution costs, in the same way digital downloads do, but more importantly, it virtually eliminates piracy. There’s nothing – no game disc or digital download – to steal and copy.

If OnLive is a success and turns out to be the future of gaming, however, there would be a number of big losers.

Console makers Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are obvious casualties, along with high-end PC component manufacturers, especially graphics chips makers.

But retailers would also be cut out of the loop entirely. And the market in second-hand games – a thorn in the side of games publishers as they get no share of profits from second-hand sales – would disappear.

And beyond games, the possibilities are endless – any program could potentially be bought and run online. Which would potentially mean no need for powerful computers in the home (or the workplace?) at all.

It’s very early days, so I wouldn’t get too excited (or worried, depending on your viewpoint) just yet. The demos being given to journalists and at the GDC are on a carefully-controlled network with, no doubt, plenty of bandwidth to spare.

But, on the other hand, this is clearly a lot more than just some fancy tech demo and is definitely one to keep a close eye on. Because regardless of whether OnLive succeeds or fails, the technology it has created is likely to have a big impact on the future plans of the games hardware big boys.

Check out this article for a more in-depth look at the technology. And this one considers the implications.

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What If… Family Guy Was An ’80s Videogame?


Don’t ask me how this is done. It has something to do with black magic and, possibly, this.

Anyway, it tickled the Choob’s fancy as it made it possible for me to be both a videogame geek AND a TV geek – AT THE SAME TIME!

Enjoy!

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