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The Actual Top 10 NES Games

Friday, August 29th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

There are bad games, alright games, good games, and great games. Great games are the ones where everything is firing on all cylinders — gameplay, story, music and graphics are all top notch. The following 10 are the best games the NES has to offer.

10. Rad Racer

What is it?

Rad Racer is an on-rails racing game where you dodge cars to reach the goal.

What’s so great about it?

This game has pretty much everything going for it, considering it was among the earlier waves of NES games released for the system. The graphics took advantage of a parallax scrolling technique which simulated a horizon as players drove through the various stages and their terrains. The in-game music, which was composed by Final Fantasy veteran Nobuo Uematsu, was catchy on its own, but there was the option for silence if someone wanted to use their own tunes while they played.

The gameplay is especially intense because the NPC cars seemed to appear out of nowhere, meaning that if you were going too fast you’d crash and waste precious time trying to roll back over. Too many mistakes like this and you won’t make it to the checkpoints in time, leading to a game over. Most of the fun comes from seeing just how far you can get.

How can I play it?

Unfortunately, Rad Racer can only be played legally with a physical copy of the game and an NES console.

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The 5 Most Underrated NES Games

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

Startropics

Millions of people around the world owe significant chunks of their childhood memories to the Nintendo Entertainment System. Countless hours of time were spent playing video games on the NES, and when asked most people would recall playing entries in classic franchises such as Mario, Mega Man, Castlevania, and the like. Among these long-running and beloved games are others that don’t get quite as much attention, and the following five are some that deserve it the most.

5. StarTropics

What kind of game is it?

StarTropics is an Action-Adventure game in the vein of Legend of Zelda. The story is about Mike, a young man who traveled to C-Island to visit his uncle and locally renowned scientist Dr. Steve Jones, AKA “Dr. J.” Upon arriving, Mike discovers that his uncle has gone missing, and sets forth on an adventure to find him across various islands with the help of Dr. J’s assistant Baboo and… a yo-yo?

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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5 Cool Tech Stories From This Week

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

1. J.K. Rowling almost broke the Internet. She published a Harry Potter short story and civilization nearly ended.

2. A Turkish student has come up with a 3D printed cast that supposedly heals bones as much as 80% faster than conventional casts.

It’s pretty cool-looking.

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The Classic Cartoon Reinvented as Video Game

Monday, June 23rd, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

It appears like I’m not the only one exploring the animated innovations of the 1930s for inspirations today. The Daily Dot featured this fascinating write-up of a new video game coming this year for X-Box:

The devil and hell setting reminds me of this early entry in the Silly Symphony series, “Hell’s Bells,” animated by Ub Iwerks:

I think where the deepest lasting imprint of the hellfire stuff remains in the Disney cultural consciousness is as the notorious ending of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at DisneyLand, a perpetual mystery to all children who pass through it:

At the end of the ride when you get to hell the room noticeably heats up. I bet it’s just a matter of time before home video games get to the point where they’re shifting the physical environments the players are in to match with the on-screen action…

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Geeks In Love: 8 Questions To Spark Passionate Debates About Video Games and Chick Flicks

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

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In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

Also check out the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions To Figure Out What Makes Some Adaptations Succeed and Others Fail5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

1. What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?

2. What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?

3. Which Generation of Nintendo Game Consoles Gave You the Most Joy?

4. Do Some Violent Video Games Actually Inspire Real World Killing?

5. Which Video Games Should Be Respected As Art?

6. What Are the Best Romantic Comedies Of All Time?

7. What Is the Difference Between a ‘Chick Flick’ and A Romantic Comedy?

8. Who Are Your Favorite Fictional Married Couples?

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image illustration via shutterstock / jugulator

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Which Video Games Should Be Respected As Art?

Friday, June 6th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. This week we’re talking about video games. See Monday’s question:  ”What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?,”  Tuesday’s: “What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?,” Wednesday’s: “Which Generation of Nintendo Game Consoles Gave You the Most Joy?”, Thursday’s: “Do Some Violent Video Games Actually Inspire Real World Killing?

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

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Jon Bishop: When We Start Playing Oscar-Winning Movies

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Next week’s subject for pop culture debates is still up for grabs. Please leave your suggestions in the comments for the next realm in pop culture we should discuss. 

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Do Some Violent Video Games Actually Inspire Real World Killing?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. This week we’re talking about video games. See Monday’s question:  ”What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?,”  Tuesday’s: “What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?,” Wednesday’s: “Which Generation of Nintendo Game Consoles Gave You the Most Joy?”

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

Are video games inherently different from books, films and TV when it comes to shaping behavior?

Fox News in 2013: “Training simulation:’ Mass killers often share obsession with violent video games“:

A decade after Evan Ramsey sneaked a 12-gauge shotgun into his Alaska high school, where he gunned down a fellow student and the principal and wounded two others, he described how playing video games had warped his sense of reality.

“I did not understand that if I…pull out a gun and shoot you, there’s a good chance you’re not getting back up,” Ramsey said in a 2007 interview from Spring Creek Correctional Center, in Seward, Alaska. “You shoot a guy in ‘Doom’ and he gets back up. You have got to shoot the things in ‘Doom’ eight or nine times before it dies.”

Since Ramsey’s 1997 rampage, several other mass killers, including Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, have been linked to violent video games. And some experts worry that as the games get more violent and more realistic, so does their power to blur the line between fantasy and reality in alienated gamers.

Walter Hudson: This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Grand Theft Auto

Walter Hudson: 5 Ways Grand Theft Auto V Makes You Feel Like a Criminal

The Guardian in 2012: “Anders Breivik ‘trained’ for shooting attacks by playing Call of Duty“:

Anders Behring Breivik has described how he “trained” for the attacks he carried out in Norway last summer using the computer game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

The 33-year-old said he practised his shot using a “holographic aiming device” on the war simulation game, which he said is used by armies around the world for training.

“You develop target acquisition,” he said. He used a similar device during the shooting attacks that left 69 dead at a political youth camp on the island of Utøya on 22 July.

Describing the game, he said: “It consists of many hundreds of different tasks and some of these tasks can be compared with an attack, for real. That’s why it’s used by many armies throughout the world. It’s very good for acquiring experience related to sights systems.”

He added: “If you are familiar with a holographic sight, it’s built up in such a way that you could have given it to your grandmother and she would have been a super marksman. It’s designed to be used by anyone. In reality it requires very little training to use it in an optimal way. But of course it does help if you’ve practised using a simulator.”

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Which Generation of Nintendo Game Consoles Gave You the Most Joy?

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. This week we’re talking about video games. See Monday’s question:  ”What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?” and Tuesday’s: “What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

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What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. This week we’re talking about video games. See yesterday’s prompt question:  ”What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

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What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle.

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

If you were trapped on a desert island and could have only a handful of titles to keep you occupied, what would you choose?

Jeremac: Five Video Games You Loved as a Kid But Will Hate If You’re Dumb Enough to Play As an Adult

Dave Swindle: Why I Stopped Playing Video Games

Jon Bishop: Dr. Mario. Literally.

PJ Lifestyle Humor: Super Mario In Post-It Note Form Running Around the Room

This week’s pop culture debates look at the past, present and future of video games. What questions do you want to debate? Please send your suggestions.

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Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?

Friday, May 30th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question: “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question: “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question: “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question: “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?“ the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

Stephen Green: Nintendo Riding the Mario Kart to Extinction

Stephen Green: Study: Violent Video Games Are Good for You

Bryan Preston: Gamers, NSA Has Been Spying On You and Your Magical, Virtual Gun-Toting Friends

Walter Hudson: Game-Changer: The Next Generation of Gaming

Jon Bishop:When Will Video Game Consoles Take Up a Room in Your House?

This question is a good lead-in to next week’s pop culture debates about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Video Game culture. Your ideas and suggestions are always appreciated.

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Nintendo Riding the Mario Kart to Extinction

Friday, May 9th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

NINTENDO

Half a billion dollars for a company whose new console flopped, and whose handheld gaming business is being systematically dismantled by Android and iOS.

The Wii U (rhymes with “peew”) was such an obvious stinker I called it a “desperate Hail Mary pass” way back in October of 2011, months before it was even released.

Back in January Nintendo admitted it was looking into new business models. Now would be the time to act — but the company steadfastly refuses to port its beloved titles to other systems.

It’s time for new management at Nintendo.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Indiana Jones and the Landfill of Lost Cartridges

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

ET-game-cartridges-landfill-500x250

A fabled tale from my childhood about the fate of thousands of unsold E.T. video game cartridges turns out to be true:

Back during the so-called video game crash of 1983, a struggling Atari was stuck with truckloads of the game and other unsold hardware. With little recourse and a crashing interest in video games in North America, the company decided to dump its excess merchandise into a landfill, according to reports at the time. The story was never confirmed, however, and it’s carried on as a legendary tale from a time when video games were near worthless. It reportedly cost Atari millions to get the rights to produce a video game tie-in to the incredibly successful Steven Spielberg film, but the resulting E.T. game was a massive flop and it’s considered one of the worst titles of all time.

My buddy Chris had a copy and I can confirm it was the Worst. Game. Ever.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Can Nintendo Survive?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Game-Over-super-mario-bros-5429546-1280-1024

Ouch:

Nintendo Co. (7974) President Satoru Iwata said the maker of video-game machines is considering a new business model after forecasting a surprise 25 billion-yen ($240 million) annual loss because of tepid demand for the Wii U.

“We are thinking about a new business structure,” Iwata said at a press conference yesterday in Osaka, Japan. “Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game-player business. It’s not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone.”

Iwata has to stop thinking about a new business structure, and get moving on one before it’s too late.

Nintendo proved with the original Wii that it has the ability to conceive and execute on new ways of playing games, of interacting with beloved characters. The failed Wii-U (you can no longer claim it’s “merely struggling”) was the sad result of Nintendo pursuing a spaghetti-against-the-wall tactic against Sony and Microsoft’s technological advantages. And Wii, for all its strengths, never moved enough games off of store shelves to generate the cash Nintendo needed if it was to ever catch up in the specs race.

But Nintendo can (I think) still execute on software and they have a stable of franchises which is the envy of the gaming world. All they need to do is to produce engaging games for the platforms people actually still buy. Yes, I know the DS handheld is still doing OK, but handhelds will turn out to be another hardware race Nintendo will lose, this time to phones produced by Apple and Samsung.

Nintendo had an amazing heyday as a hardware developer, but that day is done.

And I hate to say I told you so, but I did — way back in October of 2011, before the Wii U had even been released.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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I Only See 3 Obstacles to Sony’s Plan to Revitalize their Waning Video Game Console

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

PSNow

PlayStation Now looks very well thought out:

•Both rental and subscription plans will be available

•PS4, PS3, Vita, and 2014 Sony Bravia TVs will be supported initially, expanding to other platforms in the future

•PS3 games will be supported at launch, with nothing to announce regarding older, back catalog (that is, PS2, PS1) games yet

•Games will stream at 720p resolution

•Games can be saved in the cloud, letting you pick up your saved game on another device later

•Multiplayer is supported between players using PlayStation Now, as well as the ability to play against people who are playing using a disc

Easy to get to, available on any Sony platform, the ability to play across platforms — what’s not for a Sony devotee to love?

There’s been a lot of talk that the game console as we know it might be dying. Casual gamers are happy with iOS and Android, hardcore gamers build their own Windows (or even Steam) rigs, leaving a smaller and smaller fraction of the market to consoles like Xbox and PlayStation and Nintendo. (Nintendo might already be on the way out as a console maker. We’ll see.)

But even if the console age is waning, PlayStation Now might very well inject fresh life into it. I only see three real obstacles.

• The price. Unannounced.

• Broadband speed. 5mps “recommended,” but more is always better.

• Vita has yet to take off as a mobile gaming platform the way Android and iOS have.

Pricing is easy. If you don’t have enough buyers or renters, lower the price. There’s nothing really to be done by Sony about broadband speeds, but they can safely assume that eventually the situation will improve. And Vita… jeeze, just make it a cross-platform app already and let people rent and play games on the mobile device of their choice.

Sony’s problem is that sometimes they’re a hardware company like Samsung, making Android phones. Sometimes they’re a platform company like Apple, with PlayStation consoles. And now they’re kinda-sorta acting like a software company with PS Now.

Those are three different skill sets, and it’s difficult to master any one of them.

That aside, PS Now looks impressive on paper and I can’t wait to see it in action.
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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Hackers Take Down Major Gaming Servers As They Hunt Down Pro-Gamer

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard
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[LANGUAGE WARNING]

James Varga, a 25-year-old professional gamer who goes by the screenname of PhantomLOrd, had quite an interesting day on Monday. What started out as a normal day (normal for a pro-gamer) would take a sudden turn into a dramatic cat-and-mouse game with the Derp hacker group and end with police and pizza delivery men swarming his L.A. area home.

James “PhantomL0rd” Varga gets paid to play video games — and apparently he’s quite good at them, including League of Legends, one of the most popular games on the internet. He often plays on Twitch.tv, a streaming service that allows gamers to share their experience live with others. According to Varga, he was achieving an unusually high score in League of Legends (LoL) on Monday when the server went down. He switched to another game with the same result. And then another. Eventually he figured out that the Derp hacking group was following him from game to game and not only knocking him off the sites, but also shutting down the games for all other players worldwide.

David Birti, a computer science student a Cedarville University, explained what happened:

Derp is a hacking collective that started out taking down small private game servers, but has recently moved on to much bigger targets. Starting on Monday, they claim to have taken down League of Legends and EVE Online (the two most-played games in the world), along with EA.com, Club Penguin, KCNA (a North Korean news agency), World of Tanks, Guild Wars 2, a private high school’s website, Runescape, and a Westboro Baptist Church site; all of this was done “for the lulz” (just for fun).

They accomplished this using a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS), which can take down servers for short periods of time by flooding them with nonsense traffic. This is usually accomplished with a botnet, which is a group of normal computers that are under the attacker’s control (usually via a virus). Since there are so many computers contributing to the flood, blocking all of them is infeasible. The larger a target is, the larger a botnet needs to be to take it down. And judging from the high-profile targets they’ve taken out, their botnet is undoubtedly very large.

Throughout the DDOS attacks Varga made several attempts to contact Derp representatives through online chat rooms. At one point Varga said, “The whole server is depending on us winning this game.” Reddit documented the entire drama, including screenshots of the chats. At one point Varga’s personal information was posted on the gaming sites — called DOXing — and pizzas started to arrive at his house.

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Study: Violent Video Games Are Good for You

Friday, December 13th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

SHOOTEMUP

Really:

While one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception, according to several studies reviewed in the article. This is particularly true for shooter video games that are often violent, the authors said. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. This enhanced thinking was not found with playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games.

I haven’t played Halo in ages, but maybe it’s time to teach the seven-year-old of the awesomeness of the Master Chief.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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21st Century Gnostics Keeping Us Safe, One Gnome at a Time

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 - by Ed Driscoll

Yet another attempt by our 1930s-era cargo cult administration to go Barack to the Future, as spotted by Richard Epstein at the Hoover Institute:

This past week in Washington DC, the President made a speech about the state of the economy and about his determination to reform it. But much as things change, so they remain the same. A great deal of what he said there was reminiscent of a major address he gave two years ago on economic policy before a friendly audience in Osawatomie, Kansas. The President there talked with dizzying rapidity about the lost greatness of America’s past, and his plans to restore that greatness in the future. It’s worth revisiting some of the basic themes of his speech since they obviously continue to inform his policy decisions today.

As is common in speeches that romanticize history to advocate change, Obama’s address contained an unforgivable level of jingoistic nationalism: He claimed, “It was here in America that the most productive workers, the most innovative companies turned out the best products on Earth…. Today, we’re still home to the world’s most productive workers. We’re still home to the world’s most innovative companies.”

No one, not even the United States, can be that good. In fact, our present national status will only become worse if we do not understand that the American position has eroded from its glory days, in part because of the very policies that the President champions as the solution to our issues. But where to begin? The President manages to pack so many economic and historical falsehoods into his speech that it is nearly impossible to take them all on at the same time.

“A rehash of failed progressive policies will not return the United States to greatness,” and while I was tempted to quote that last sentence and snark, “talk about breaking news from 2009,” the reason why the cycle won’t be broken anytime soon is that it’s not policy — it’s religion. Or as Derek Hunter writes at Townhall, “In Government We Trust” is most assuredly “The Progressive Religion:”

What has happened is Democrats’ previously uncheckable lies are now fully checkable. It’s real now. You can’t keep your doctor or insurance, no matter how much you like them. And this hurts in the wallet – a lot. Now that we know this does not qualify as a practical solution, certainly not to health care anyway, Democrats –with all the credibility of a used-Pinto salesman – now embrace “morality” as the reason to embrace Obamacare.

In a column reeking of desperation on par with a kid hoping for a unicorn under his Christmas tree, the Washington Post’s Ryan Cooper complied a list of reasons “Why millennials will come around on Obamacare.” Aside from a desperate lack of understanding of health policy and how people work, the second reason Cooper lists stands out. He writes, “Going without health insurance is morally wrong.”

I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.

This pathetic attempt to manipulate the unthinking into an overwhelming sense of guilt that forces them to capitulate may work on those with fewer IQ points than fingers, but it won’t work on those with a third-grade education.

Cooper explains, “The only way insurance can work for everyone is if everyone is in the system so risk can be pooled. This one doesn’t carry much weight yet, since the system isn’t even operating. But as time passes, this will become an important norm — and for young people, the norm has outsized importance (older people already have a reason to get coverage; they get sick more easily). Getting insurance will be part of living in a decent society where everyone chips in when they can afford it, and free-riding is frowned upon — and over time, young people will come to see this as part of being a responsible citizen.”

Those 108 words are an incredibly inefficient way of rephrasing “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Cooper’s appeal wouldn’t be noteworthy were it a lone cactus in the desert, but it’s not.

Also this week the buffoonish Ed Schultz, MSNBC’s angry Fred Flintstone clone, mused about how God would feel about Obamacare. “I’ll tell you what I think God thinks of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a big amen!”

Not to be outdone in the office pool of idiocy, Charlie Brown’s illegitimate child, Chris Matthews, had an offering on this theme. Matthews temporarily snapped out of his loving gaze while interviewing the president Thursday and put the cherry on top of one of this planet’s worst displays of sycophantism to utter what was supposed to be a question: “You know, Mr. President, your — your remarks the other day on economic justice to me, as a Roman Catholic, was so resonant with what the Holy Father, Francis, has been saying. Talk about that common Judeo-Christian or, even further, Muslim background to the belief we have a social responsibility, a moral responsibility to look out for people who haven’t made it in this country.”

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Gamers, NSA Has Been Spying On You and Your Magical, Virtual Gun-Toting Friends

Monday, December 9th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston
Griefer

The NSA: Gaming for America.

More Edward Snowden documents have come out, and as usual, they paint a picture of a government that is simply spying on everyone, everywhere, all the time.

Stories carried Monday by The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica said U.S. and U.K. spies have spent years trawling online games for terrorists or informants. The stories, based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, offer an unusual take on America’s world-spanning surveillance campaign, suggesting that even the fantasy worlds popular with children, teens, and escapists of all ages aren’t beyond the attention of the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ.

Virtual universes like “World of Warcraft” can be massively popular, drawing in millions of players who log months’ worth of real-world time competing with other players for online glory, virtual treasure, and magical loot. At its height, “World of Warcraft” boasted some 12 million paying subscribers, more than the population of Greece. Other virtual worlds, like Linden Labs’ “Second Life” or the various games hosted by Microsoft’s Xbox _ home to the popular science fiction-themed shoot-em-up “Halo” _ host millions more.

Spy agencies have long worried that such games serve as a good cover for terrorists or other evildoers who could use in-game messaging systems to swap information. In one of the documents cited Monday by media outlets, the NSA warned that the games could give intelligence targets a place to “hide in plain sight.”

So the suspiciously good 13-year-old who owns you at “League of Legends” isn’t the worst you have to worry about online? That sexy elven warrior you’ve been questing with isn’t just probably a guy. It may be a spy.

The companies involved swear that they had no knowledge that G-Men were all up in their online games. Microsoft says it’s going to see about locking the government out of X-Box Live.

I’m for NSA doing its thing when and where it’s warranted, but is there a single documented case of terrorists meeting up in “Second Life” to plot attacks? Or WoW or any other game space? And what kind of “virtual weapons training” can one really conduct in “Halo” or “Star Wars: The Old Republic?” One? Anywhere?

*****

Cross-posted from PJ Tatler

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The 5 Most Tasteless Hanukkah Gifts for 2013

Monday, November 25th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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With all the ugly Christmas sweaters going around, we Jews need to catch up with the trend of bad-taste giving. Sure, you could go for a Menurkey in honor of Thanksgivukkah, or one of the other memorably odd menorah choices, but in the era of heightened European anti-Semitism, Putin’s Syrian intervention, and negotiations with Iran these simple, silly pleasures seem rather passe. Trendy tacky giving requires matching the spirit of the season as well as cultural vogue. With that in mind, I present to you the Top 5 most timely, tacky, and totally tasteless Hanukkah gifts for 2013.

5. Papers, Please

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Great for those American kids who still have the privilege of checking “Decline to Respond” next to questions about racial and ethnic identification, Papers Please is a video game that’s sure to please the tech geek on your list this holiday season. This cheap downloadable PC game’s pixelated animation will hark back to the days of Oregon Trail sans the Donner Party madness. In Papers Please the evil is clean-cut; no need to rape a street whore and throw her out of the car for extra points. As the bureaucrat you simply refuse entry to those in need.

Kindness is the killer in this game, a “dystopian document thriller” about the evils of government paperwork. The perfect training ground for a nation of future bureaucrats, Papers Please is a testimony to Stalin’s axiom, ”Bureaucracy is the price we pay for impartiality.” Perfect for the little Schindler in your life.

4. Nationalist Simulator – Defend Ukraine

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A Ukranian website whose servers are located in Berlin has cultivated a Twitter following among Russian-speakers who love playing Nationalist Simulator – Defend Ukraine. This is the perfect gift for that friend with Eastern European proclivities who just can’t stomach Russians, gays, Americans, and, of course, Jews.

“The objective of the game is to shoot the rainbow flags, Russian flags, American flags, red balls and Jews, who are represented by orange circles adorned with yarmulkes and sidelocks.” Perfect for the self-loathing among us, Russian-speaking Twitter user Denis Goldman (ethnic/religious persuasion unidentified) asked, “God, why had no one come up with this amazing game?”

Given the implied hatred of Russians, I’m guessing the picture of Putin riding a bear implodes if you can get past all those pesky Jews, gays, and Yankees.

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Xbox One… Step Short

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 - by Stephen Green

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I thought Xbox One was the right product marketed correctly. Sony has enjoyed more of a lock on the hardcore gamer audience, even if the PS3 was harder on developers. PS4 looks to have corrected that slight, while keeping the marketing focus (and product specs) on the gamers. Xbox was from the first generation meant to be more of a living room device. To that end the hardware, especially comparing the 360 to the PS3, was made easier for developers to work with. Taking things further with this third generation, the “One” in “Xbox One” is supposed to mean it’s the one device you have to plug into your television. It even offers HDMI In so that the console can act as the go-between with your TV and cable box.

But it all depends on execution, and that’s where things aren’t looking so great at launch time:

After about a week of using these voice commands every chance I could, I found them to be adequate but far from perfect. As evidenced by the above video, the voice commands were accurate about 80 to 90 percent of the time, depending on the command, the clarity of the voice, and the location of the speaker. The one significant exception to this rate was the “Xbox on” voice function, which only registered about 25 to 50 percent of the time when the system was in Instant-On mode. The system didn’t do much worse than normal at picking up commands through crosstalk, occasional stutters, and mumbling, but it occasionally refused to acknowledge slow, deliberate commands.

The 10 to 20 percent of commands that the system either ignored or misinterpreted was right on the line between “annoying but usable” and “frustratingly broken” to me. Having to repeat yourself once every eight or nine times is annoying, sure, but scrolling through a cluttered menu just to find the settings screen is arguably more annoying than saying “Xbox go to settings” even if you have to do it twice.

Reviewer Kyle Orland later says, “It would be nice if the system overall was a bit more forgiving or smarter about how it interprets voice commands as well.” Considering Microsoft has been pushing “natural language” use for years and years, it’s difficult to understand why they can’t make anything nearly as good as Apple’s Siri or Google Now. Another complaint is that it took two hours to transfer one particular game from Blu-Ray disc to the hard drive — and that’s a mandatory process. Apparently you can’t play directly from the removable media with these new-generation consoles. But if you’re going to require players to do that, you must absolutely make it as quick and as painless as possible.

Sony is going to make gamers (and developers) happy with PS4. Microsoft will almost certainly have more than enough high-quality, Xbox-exclusive titles to make the One a success, too. But if they’re going to conquer the whole living room, they’ll have to do better than this.

****

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Game-Changer: The Next Generation of Gaming

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

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I’m not quite ready to part ways with my Xbox 360. The box has been an integral part of my living room, towed through eight residences in as many years. In that time, it has grown, developed, and matured much as I have. Years of updates, upgrades, and expansions have turned it into an entirely different machine than the one I first purchased.

Comparing a launch title like Perfect Dark Zero to this year’s stunning Grand Theft Auto V makes it hard to believe that each belongs to the same generation of hardware. The leaps and bounds that developers have been able to take with the console over its eight year lifespan have kept the experience fresh.

Perhaps that is why so few people are seriously considering a next generation console purchase this holiday season. From IGN:

In a limited poll surveying 1,297 people, 64% of respondents stated they would not buy new video game hardware this holiday season, according to Reuters. This includes, of course, next-generation consoles such as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as Nintendo’s upcoming 2DS or Valve’s recently revealed Steam Machines.

The minor interest in next-gen gaming points to something else emphasized in the poll: The games respondents most desire are non-exclusive, third-party sequels that, in many cases, will release on current hardware. Call of Duty: Ghosts Assassin’s Creed 4, Madden NFL 25, Battlefield 4 topped the interest list, alongside GTA 5.

Games drive the market more than hardware. Indeed, thinking back on my early adoption of the Xbox 360, it provided very little value at first. When a new generation of hardware launches, the first wave of games typically fumble while developers explore what the new hardware can do. Dead Rising, an early zombie-slaying title for the Xbox 360, was little more than a tech demo for how many unique characters could be rendered on-screen. The gameplay, in retrospect, seems pretty terrible.

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5 Ways Grand Theft Auto V Makes You Feel Like a Criminal

Friday, September 27th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

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Described by one prominent reviewer as “one of the very best video games ever made,” Grand Theft Auto V delivers in unexpected and satisfying ways.

Developer Rockstar Games could have gotten away with simply recycling Grand Theft Auto IV, the previous iteration released during the same console generation. People would have bought their new game even if it were just more of the same. Certainly, many other developers crank out sequel after sequel with little to no functional improvements year after year. And gamers lap it up. However, Rockstar has never been satisfied merely meeting expectations. They seek to defy them, and defy them they have.

Grand Theft Auto V achieves what its predecessors strove toward, convincingly immersing the player in the experience of being a criminal. Though law-breaking and havoc have always fueled the Grand Theft Auto experience, the games have typically felt more like amusement parks than actual worlds. Each mission played like a specific ride which you got on, enjoyed, and then got off in search of the next one. Though Rockstar made valiant attempts to create a sense of persistent identity in an immersive world, the overall game mechanics never really came together to fully suspend disbelief.

By contrast, logging into Grand Theft Auto V feels like waking up to another life, that of a professional criminal confronting a world of persistent challenges while negotiating meaningful relationships. A storyline which switches the player between three main characters keeps the experience fresh. Just as you get into a rhythm as one character, the story calls you to take the reins of another, and each has their own unique misadventures to get into.

Personally, I love bounty hunting as the psychopathic Trevor Phillips. The bounties come as text messages with a mug shot of the bail jumper and an aerial shot of the terrain where they were last seen. Tracking them involves searching the landscape for the right area, then searching that area for the target before apprehending them. The experience delivers a refreshing departure from the typical go-here-and-shoot-this mission, requiring the player to show initiative, patience, and strategy.

Aside from the scope and diversity of its gameplay, Grand Theft Auto V immerses the player by effectively conveying the sense that crime is, well, crime. Here are 5 ways Grand Theft Auto V makes you feel like a criminal.

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