Agassi To Have Own Line Of Nevada Slot Machines
At age 35, Andre Agassi is nearing the end of his career: He hasn't won a major tournament in more than two years.
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Andre Agassi once dominated the tennis court. Now he's hoping to stand out on the casino floor.
Agassi's name and image are emblazoned on slot machines rolled Tuesday out at the MGM Grand hotel-casino, and later to be installed at casinos across Nevada.
"I was a little hesitant, being a professional athlete, about the association with gaming and wagering," Agassi told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "But my connection to this city is so clear and I'm so tied in with the city, that I found myself in a unique situation.
"Seeing myself on a slot machine seemed like a perfect fit for a boy from Las Vegas." The Agassi slot machine is a penny-based game with a tennis theme and graphics to complement bonuses and progressive jackpots.
But it also has a twist: a percentage of proceeds and licensing fees will be funneled to Agassi's Las Vegas-based charitable foundation, which has raised more than $50 million through its annual "Grand Slam for Children" events.
"I think people will be glad to know that if they're losing money playing the game, at least a portion will go toward helping to make a difference in the community," Agassi said. "My goal in establishing the relationship was to make sure some of the money makes it to kids here."
Aristocrat Technologies, a subsidiary of Australia-based Aristocrat Leisure Ltd., spent more than a year developing the game.
Agassi, 35, has won 59 singles tennis titles since turning pro in 1986. He lost in the first round of the French Open last month. He and his wife, former women's tennis star Steffi Graf, have two children and live in Las Vegas.
Actors In Games Have Pact
Matthew Yi, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, June 9, 2005
Talks broke off May 13 after the publishers had refused to pay residuals, a slice of the revenue from every game that's sold on top of the one-time, up- front payments.
The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists argued those payments should be part of the contract because residuals are a common practice in Hollywood.
After the negotiations stalled, the unions sent ballots to about 2,000 of their members asking whether they should strike. The result of that vote was supposed to be released Wednesday.
However, with the tentative agreement, the final tally will not be released, said Seth Oster, a spokesman for the Screen Actors Guild.
The two sides reached middle ground as the unions decided not to ask for residuals while publishers agreed to increase the pay from the previous offer of 34.8 percent over three years to 36 percent increase over 3.5 years.
Although the latest contract offer has been accepted by the bargaining teams, it will have to be approved by executive committees of both unions, Oster said. That will likely occur in the next few weeks, he said.
Skaife Turns To Kids Games For V8 Edge
V8 Supercar veteran Mark Skaife has resorted to childrens video games to get an extra advantage for the inaugural championship round at Shanghai.
No V8 driver has raced on the Shanghai circuit, widely considered the best in the world, with Formula One and MotoGP the only races to be held at the 200,000 seat stadium.
To acquaint himself better with the circuit Holden driver Skaife admitted he had spent hours on his XBox learning the ins and outs of the track.
Preparation is widely considered the key to winning this weekend's inaugural Asian race, with the two hour practice session carrying huge importance.
Skaife has left no stone unturned in his bid to claim his first win of the year and break a round win drought extending back to Sandown in 2003.
"In principle the lines of a Formula One and a touring car are pretty similar, so some of the approaches Formula One cars take into certain corners we have been looking at," said Skaife.
"We have also used simulation to try and analyse the circuit itself. And I have jumped on the XBox and had a look at it.
"But until you really get on the circuit you don't know how valuable that information is until you're really using it.
"I love going to new racetracks and I'm really looking forward to having a run at this one because it is a very weird sort of complex track and it is going to take a lot of thought and application to do a really good job there." Skaife hasn't had the greatest start to the season, crashing in each of the last two rounds, but still sits fifth in the series led by Ford's Marcos Ambrose.
"(The year has) been very encouraging in terms of speed. We won the Grand Prix (non-championship race) and have been plenty fast enough but had some run ins with Ambrose the last couple rounds which cost us what would have been good results," said Skaife.
"At Barbagallo (Perth) we won the first race and probably should have won the weekend and we were fast enough at Eastern Creek to have probably won.
"It has not gone our way but having said that I am still fifth in the series and not far away.
"I think that as the luck turns a bit we will be in shape." Skaife's two round ruining incidents have both involved collisions with Ambrose, straining an already frosty relationship between the pair.
Both have fired verbal shots at each other through the media but Skaife said nothing has been spoken between the pair.
"We have not spoken since Eastern Creek," said Skaife of Ambrose.
"He is the lead Ford guy and I'm the lead Holden guy so there is a real rivalry there.
"So far the incidents with Marcos have cost me two really good results and I'm certainly disappointed about it.
"I'm just going to get my head down and get into it. Those things don't always happen like that. If you're going to have those sorts of dramas you don't always come out second best, every dog has his day." The one and only practice session will be held with the qualifying, top 10 shootout and first race to be held on Saturday
Go Ahead And Play Video Games If You Know What's Good For You
Video games are good for you.
That's the message in a controversial new book that got more buzz at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show than most of the games on display: Steven Johnson's Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter (Riverhead Books, 2005).
Everyone -- from developers on the show floor to the president of the Electronic Software Association -- was quoting the book, which asserts that games have become incredibly sophisticated forms of entertainment, requiring complex analytical skills at the same time they hone our hand-eye coordination.
Johnson's arguments are persuasive, and games all over the show floor demonstrated what he was talking about. Sony was showing off EyeToy Kinetic, a new game for its EyeToy camera coming out this fall. It's a workout disguised as a video game. Like earlier EyeToy titles, you move in front of the camera to make things happen on screen. It's always been an active way to play.
But Kinetic takes that to the next level, making a successful gaming session also work out to be the equivalent of a successful kickboxing workout. Sony says it's inspired by aerobics, tai chi, yoga and some styles of dance and kickboxing; regardless of where it comes from, it's guaranteed to make you sweat, and it's a direct contradiction to the idea of gamers as sedentary couch potatoes.
Same goes for Konami's new fall Karaoke Revolution installment, tentatively called Karaoke Revolution Party, which allows you to use a ''Dance Dance Revolution'' pad on the floor to dance and sing at the same time. (As if just singing -- or just dancing -- wasn't challenging enough.) The ''Dance Dance'' series has been called out before as a game that always results in a workout, with reports nationwide of people losing weight while they play.
But Johnson said those superficial benefits aren't the end of the story.
''The virtues of gaming run far deeper than hand-eye coordination,'' he writes. ``When I read these ostensibly positive accounts of video games, they strike me as the equivalent of writing a story about the merits of the great novels and focusing on how reading them can improve your spelling.''
While most reports decry how games' morals have fallen -- despite the fact that the vast majority of best-selling games involve no violence or sex whatsoever -- that's not a good indicator of whether they're good for us, he argues.
''Today's popular culture may not be showing us the righteous path,'' he writes, ``but it is making us smarter.''
Games do that by teaching complex concepts and encouraging us to learn them by tapping into the way the brain senses progress and rewards, he argues, using the example of a 7-year-old relative whom he introduced to Electronic Arts' enormously popular SimCity game.
He showed the boy some of the city he had built in the game and the screens that control everything available to the residents and businesses he'd enticed into his virtual landscape.
At one point, he complained that one of his industrial districts was failing. The boy piped up and immediately suggested that the industrial tax rate was too high, and should be lowered.
Put the child in an urban economics class and he'd fall asleep immediately, Johnson said. But in just a few minutes of playing the game, he'd gotten the idea that high taxes in industrial areas can discourage development.
Hollywood Actors Avoid Video Games Strike
Hollywood actors have averted the threat of a strike after reaching a deal with video game companies to receive a pay rise, reports the BBC.
Hit games such as Grand Theft Auto and movie spin-offs often include dialogue recorded by actors. Producers agreed to give them a 36% pay rise - but refused their demand for a payment every time a game is sold.
Best-selling game series Grand Theft Auto, featuring Samuel L Jackson, Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds and Peter Fonda, is among those to enlist stars. And actors are increasingly required to contribute to video game versions of their own films.
Win Admiration... And A Pinball Game By Seeing Revenge This Weekend!
What? You've seen Revenge of the Sith only five times...or eight...or a dozen? See the movie again this weekend and have a chance to win a full-size Star Wars Trilogy classic pinball game delivered to your front door. And the more times you see this year's best movie, the more chances you'll have to be crowned Star Wars Pinball Wizard! (No purchase necessary. See rules for free entry and other details.)
The Official Star Wars Fan Club wants to recognize your devotion, reward it, and have a bit of fun too. Sure, we know you'll always have great memories and a drawer full of ticket stubs. And we know you'll keep going back to the theater to see Revenge of the Sith while it's still on the big screen. But it's time for all those Friday nights, Saturday mornings, and Sunday afternoons to count for something extra.
So to celebrate the Summer of Revenge, we aim to give our fans the recognition they deserve. Starting this Friday, June 10, and running through Monday, July 4th, you can make good use of your ticket stubs from Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Send them in to the Official Star Wars Fan Club to enter our See Star Wars Episode III Again Sweepstakes.
Don't waste a minute; every show counts! The entry of one very lucky fan will be drawn to win a Star Wars Trilogy pinball game by Sega! This incredible arcade game, valued at $2,500, was a huge hit when it appeared in 1997. The winner's machine will be mint in the original shipping carton. The game is packed with action. Load the X-wing fighter's cannon to blast Darth Vader's TIE fighter, which rocks with every hit! Rescue a frozen-in-carbonite Han Solo! Watch out for blasts from the Death Star turbolasers! Go here for the full contest rules.
In addition to the contest, we want to recognize the individual who sees Revenge of the Sith the greatest number of times between this weekend and the end of the contest period. If you think you're among the most dedicated repeat viewers, send a separate email after 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5 to email@example.com with the details. Make sure you've put your name and return address on each ticket stub entry envelope that you submit to help in cross-checking. If you've watched Revenge the most you'll be featured on starwars.com and in Bantha Tracks.
And, knowing how much our fans like to see the movies with their friends, the group that sends in the most individual tickets from one single showing of Revenge of the Sith -- the biggest "group party" at a theater--will also be recognized on starwars.com. Have each member of the group send in his or her ticket in a separate envelope, and appoint one member of the group to send an email listing the names of all group members along with a digital photo of the group to firstname.lastname@example.org after 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5.
Your viewings of Revenge this weekend, and in the weeks to come, will also help you and your fellow fans enjoy this one last Star Wars summer, an opportunity to go back to the theater time and again to watch our favorite film in the best possible way--on a big screen with a banging sound system, and in the company of other fans.
When you go back to see Revenge this weekend keep that ticket stub! Please read the official rules thoroughly. Then keep your eyes on starwars.com for the winner and also news about the largest theater party and the single fan who sees Revenge of the Sith the most times in the next three-plus weeks.
Grand Theft Auto: Carl's back
Join Carl on his journey across the state of San Andreas as he fights to save his family and take back control of the streets.
Sights: Become part of Carl's world through the astounding graphics of the Xbox. Experience dynamic weather, from sunshine to smog. Relive the last 30 seconds of outrageous gameplay with instant replays!
Sounds: Listen to San Andreas, now sonically invigorated for the Xbox. Use custom soundtracks to craft your own personalized radio station of early 1990s anthems.
Space: Explore three huge cities on San Andreas, an island almost six times the size of Vice City. Visit deserts, rolling countryside, truck stops, secret military base, forest, mountains, and dozens of small towns.
Speed: Take control of BMX bikes, motorcycles, aircraft, trucks, cars, boats, hovercraft, and more.
Style: Pimp your ride with a custom sound system, nitro packs, rims, bumpers, upholstery, and other options.
Sports: Play mini-games like basketball, pool, dancing, low-rider hopping, Vegas games, and old-school arcade games.
Support: Use two-player cooperative mode for certain objectives.
Annika Eriksson Games Machine
Riva Degli Schiavoni, vaporetto stop Arsenale 8-12 June, 10 am - 10 pm. For this year's Venice Biennial IASPIS presents a new site-specific work by the Swedish artist Annika Eriksson. During the opening days of the Biennial, Games Machine will be on show on the keyside outside of the Arsenale exhibition area. In the centre of Venice, Annika Eriksson has placed an amusement arcade - a twelve meter long and 120 ton heavy glass pavilion containing computer games and pinball machines - which visitors are invited to use.For a significant period, Annika Eriksson has produced consequent works that consider the social prerequisites of a site. Her staged situations stimulate discussions and give the viewer access to experiences that are not generally aired in public. Games Machine can be understood as a comment on the Venice Biennial as a spectacular art event. At the same time it is a generous gift to the young people of the city. With Games Machine the youth of Venice, as well as visitors to the Biennial, will be given a place to hangout for a number of days.To coincide with the Venice Biennial, IASPIS will also launch a book on Annika Eriksson's practice. The publication is the first comprehensive presentation of Annika Eriksson's work and is published by IASPIS in collaboration with DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) in Berlin, Propexus publishing house in Lund and the publishing house Revolver Archiv für Aktuelle Kunst in Frankfurt. The publication is part of the IASPIS series In Dialogue. It includes descriptions of the majority of Annika Eriksson's works, an interview with Annika Eriksson by the art critic Jan Verwoert, as well as a text by Peio Aguirre, critic and curator based in San Sebastian.Annika Eriksson lives and works in Berlin. She has produced works for, among other institutions, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Kunstverein München, Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, São Paulo Biennial 2002 and Frieze Art Fair in London 2004. During 2005 she will also work on a project for DAAD in Berlin.
Pinball Wizard Gets Some Long-Delayed Recognition
PLYMOUTH — After waiting for more than thirty years, self-proclaimed Pinball Wizard and Plymouth resident Ronald Mowry will get the respect he deserves. In 1974 Mowry said he set the first record for the longest continuous pinball playing session in a small sandwich shop in Hallendale Beach, Fla. Mowry played pinball for 72 hours and eight minutes until he was eventually coerced into stopping by paramedics who were concerned about the circulation in his legs. Mowry said he was inspired to embark upon the pinball marathon because a local radio station was offering a similar contest for fifteen contestants. The contest was timed with the opening of the movie "Tommy" in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. with prizes ranging from an $1,800 pinball machine to a date with Anne Margaret, one of the actresses from "Tommy." Mowry did not agree with the way radio station chose its contestants and decided to break the record on his own. "I started my game at the exact same time as they did," said Mowry, who has told his story regularly for the past thirty years. Mowry said the machines in the radio station's contest were set to continuous play, but his required quarters. "I didn't have a rigged machine," he said From there, Mowry played for more than three days. The small sandwich shop remained open throughout the three days, and customers acted as witnesses to the unusual feat. Stopping for only five minutes each hour to regain circulation in his legs, Mowry eventually fed more than $100 into the Gottlieb Super Soccer pinball machine and played more than 700 games. Mowry said his affection for pinball began at a very early age. In the late 1940s, Mowry could be found playing pinball at his father's doughnut shop on Main Street in the back of Samaha's. "As a little boy of three, my father would stand me on a milk crate and have me play his pinball machine so he could run the shop," said Mowry. "People used to stop and look through the window to watch my father make doughnuts. They were also watching a three-year-old play pinball." Over the past 30 years, Mowry has attempted to receive recognition for his marathon pinball session, which he said is the first world record of its kind ever to be set. "I did go to the Guinness Book of World Records office in New York," said Mowry. "But the woman came out and said that pinball would never appear in the Guinness Book of World Records." A representative from Sterling Publishing Co., the New York firm that publishes The Guinness Book, told Mowry shortly after his accomplishment that pinball was considered a non-competitive sport. Despite several rebuffs through the years, Mowry continued to search over the next few decades for recognition. "I am both the Rodney Dangerfield and the Babe Ruth of pinball," he said. Mowry's claim to have gotten "no respect," for being "the pinball champion of the whole world" will end soon. Earlier this month, Walter Day, founder of Twin Galaxies Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records promised Mowry a spot in the 2006 Edition of the gamer's bible. Day also presented Mowry with a certificate marking his record therefore providing the first official evidence of his record. Previously, Mowry's only evidence was an article written in 1976 in a Butler, N.J. newspaper explaining the feat. Mowry used it to verify his record with Twin Galaxies. "What does this mean? I guess I'm the most famous pinball player ever," said Mowry. "And until now, unknown." For Mowry, seeing his name in print will provide him with a huge sense of accomplishment. "Finally I will be given the recognition I earned and deserve," he said.
Call It the PlayStation Porn-Able
02:00 AM Jun. 08, 2005 PT
Don't laugh. If Sony truly wants UMD to become the standard in portable media storage, adult videos could be a big help.
The videos, published by hmp and Glay'z (explicit adult content), will debut next month. Prices range from 1,925 to 3,800 yen (about $18 to $35). Though other UMD videos have been region-coded, the back-of-the-package artwork for the Glay'z videos suggests that they will work in any PSP machine regardless of region.
Since the PSP's Japanese launch last December, about 15 UMD videos have been released, with content ranging from feature films like Spider-Man 2 to music videos and episodes of animation. Over the next two months, the release schedule (in Japanese) will ramp up considerably, with episodes from the giant-robot animation series Gundam as well as feature films like Kung Fu Hustle and Starsky and Hutch.
Not to mention Big-Breasted Nurse Mitsu Amai. And Anna Kaneshiro: High-Class Soap Mistress. Or Lolita Pick-Up Special 5. The videos cover a wide variety of fetishes, from schoolgirls to bondage to nurses to "massage parlors" (for which "soap" is the not-so-secret Japanese code word).
Though the pursuit of the adult video market might seem odd, it's often the path to success for a new media format. Porn has traditionally been a big draw for early adopters and mass-market acceptance. A November 1996 essay in an Indiana University School of Law publication found this to be true -- and in the process illustrated how Sony was once on the losing end of the porn-tech curve.
When home video recorders were the next big thing, the VHS format won out over Sony's higher-quality Betamax. Why? Because the adult film industry embraced VHS. Some say Sony refused to license the technology to pornographers, but the more likely explanation is that the one-hour recording time of the Betamax tapes wasn't long enough for feature films of any nature.
The DVD format benefited from porn, too -- this time because of the ability to skip scenes, jumping past all the (assuredly Shakespearian) dialogue and going directly to the good parts. And because the success of Sony's PlayStation 2 is greatly attributed to the fact that it was by far the cheapest DVD player in Japan when it launched in 2000, that means the PS2 also has the massive Japanese adult video market to thank, at least in part, for its dominance.
But VHS and DVD are viewed in the privacy of one's own home. Will handheld porn on the go be acceptable? In some ways, it already is -- the exec squeezed up next to you on the Tokyo subway is just as likely to be reading a sexually explicit comic book as he is a financial newspaper. It's also not uncommon to find arcade games in public places that feature pornographic video clips (as a reward for beating the computer at mah-jongg, for example).
But it's new to see the sort of hard-core content found on these UMD videos on a personal gaming console. Yes, explicit animated sex games make up the vast majority of Japan's personal computer gaming market, but these games rarely make it to consoles like the PlayStation 2 and Sega Dreamcast, and when they do, the sex scenes have been removed.
That's not to say that game consoles don't have their share of erotic content -- like Sony's own line of interactive PS2 games featuring swimsuit models -- but these don't even feature nudity.
And as violent as we like our video games in the United States, sexual content is nearly taboo. The Entertainment Software Rating Board does have an Adults Only, or AO, classification for game software, but exceptionally few games have ever been released with this rating.
As much as Sony stresses that the PSP is a "convergence device," everybody knows it's really a game machine. And, at least in America, there's still a strong sense that game machines are for kids. Even if AO-rated games were released in any quantity, traditional game retailers wouldn't stock them for fear of parental reprisal.
So even though sales of UMD videos have taken off in the United States -- the films Resident Evil: Apocalypse and House of Flying Daggers have sold more than 100,000 copies each since their April releases -- it's unlikely we'll see porn with the PSP logo in the states.
And it's also reasonable to expect that no such content will ever appear on a Nintendo system in any country, as the company strives to maintain a family-friendly image worldwide. So adult UMDs are one thing the PSP has that the competing Nintendo DS, which is currently outselling the PSP, probably never will.
Whether UMD porn will be the shot in the arm that the PSP needs (and whether that shot will be delivered by a big-breasted nurse) remains to be seen. But history says it can only help.
Voice Actors To Vote On Strike
By Mike Snider, USA TODAY
The actors who supply the voices in video games are calling for more money. And today, more than 1,900 will have their say on whether their unions (the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists) should go on strike against gamemakers over the lack of profit-sharing.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: The popular game features the voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Ice-T and Chris Penn.
SAG plans to announce the results of the strike vote today. But it has not set a date to take action on the voting, says Seth Oster, a SAG senior executive and spokesman for both unions.
If a strike is called, replacement non-union voices would be needed, or actors would have to cross picket lines to record voices. But production is done on most games due this year, such as From Russia with Love with Sean Connery and The Godfather, for which Marlon Brando recorded before his death.
Voice actors say they are not sharing in the riches of the $10-billion-a-year industry. But game publishers say voice actors are just part of a increasingly costly and complex development process in which a typical game costs $5 million or more and several times that for blockbusters.
"Everyone should share in the profits and the failures," says actor Michael Ironside, voice of Sam Fisher in Ubisoft's Tom Clancy Splinter Cell games. He says he won't voice games during a strike. "There needs to be a standard for the people who can't protect themselves, the rank-and-file performer."
Negotiations on a new agreement broke off last month. Gamemakers proposed increases of about 35% in minimum rates, plus raises in overtime pay. The unions are asking for additional payments based on sales, which would have cost the industry an extra several million dollars in 2004, Oster says.
"There is simply no question that professional performers make these games come alive and that the video games that they perform in sell the most," he says.
Union actors lent voices to nine of 10 of last year's top video games, Oster says. That includes Halo 2, with Michelle Rodriguez, David Cross and Ron Perlman, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, with Samuel L. Jackson, Ice-T and Chris Penn.
But publishers are prepared to find voice replacements for games in production, says Howard Fabrick, negotiator for the publishers: "If they hit the bricks, I think they are going to stay out, because once alternative ways of voicing the games is achieved, there is going to be no reinventing the wheel."
More than 100 artists, programmers, engineers and producers are involved in a typical big-time video game; few share in profits. Voiceovers amount to roughly one-2400th of the total man-hours spent in creating a typical game, Fabrick says.
Just more than 50 console games of the more than 1,000 released last year sold 500,000 units or more, the Entertainment Software Association says. Overall, about 10% of the games released are "what keep the video game companies afloat," says Mike Goodman, analyst for The Yankee Group.
Gamemakers often leave acquiring voice actors to production companies such as Blindlight, which has Halo 2 and Kiefer Sutherland in the upcoming 24: The Game among its credits, and has participated in labor talks. "If there is a strike, we will continue to produce excellent voice assets using whatever resources are available to us," says general manager Lev Chapelsky. "The union membership risks losing all this work, which could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years."
If a strike occurs, game players probably won't notice much of a difference, GamePro editor Sid Shuman says. "I think if you asked gamers what is more important, recognizable voices or prices not climbing higher, they are going to opt for lower prices."
Boy Rescued After Climbing In Toy Machine
James' mother, Danielle Manges, said they had paid an early morning visit to a Wal-Mart in this northern Indiana city because he had been sick and was sleeping odd hours. After she denied him money to play the vending-machine game, he threw a juice box and climbed into the machine while his mother picked it up."Within two seconds he had climbed through the hole, into the chute and pushed the door shut so we couldn't get him out," she said.At first, Manges thought it was funny: "He was playing with all the toys and hanging from the bar like a monkey."She even bought a disposable camera to take pictures, as other shoppers did. But she soon became upset when Wal-Mart employees said they did not have a key to let James out.Firefighters removed the back of the machine to free James -- who went home empty-handed."He definitely didn't get a toy after that," Manges said.
Ping Pong ... To The Extreme
Ping Pong player Biba, known as the Anna Kournikova of her sport, will be among the competitors Sunday at Mohegan Sun's Killerspin Extreme Table Tennis Championship.
This isn't simply playing ping pong in the basement.
This is Extreme, yes, Extreme Table Tennis.
The Mohegan Sun Arena hosts the 2005 Mohegan Sun Killerspin Extreme Table Tennis Championship Sunday. The day session runs 1-3:30 p.m. with the evening session running from 6:30-9 p.m. Tickets packages for both sessions are $30-$100. Day session tickets are $25-$50 and evening sessions tickets are $35-$75.
The event will be taped for broadcast on ESPN2.
The day session begins with four teams of three players. The two best teams advance to the finals.
The top players represent seven countries. Scheduled to compete are Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, Liu Guozheng, Wang Hao and Chen Qi of China, Joo Se Hyuk of Korea, Jorgen Persson of Sweden, Zoran Primorac of Croatia, Alexander Karakasevic of Serbia, Koji Matsushita of Japan and Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece.
Players hit the ball at speeds of more than 90 mph.
Also featured will be several world-class female players including Biba, who is known as the Anna Kournikova of table tennis. Of course, Biba, who is formerly of Yugoslavia and now lives in America, has won a few titles. Kournikova can't really say that.
Tickets can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun box office, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 886-0070. For more information, go online to www.mohegansun.com.
Fun And Computer Games Make For Smarter Children
Arguing that pop culture is not dumbing us down but making us more intelligent is guaranteed to generate media buzz. In the United States, Everything Bad is Good for You, the new book by the American pop science writer, Steven Johnson, has sparked a flurry of comment, much of it centred on his claims about the beneficial effects of watching reality TV and The Sopranos.
Much attention has focused more on Johnson's observations that computer games require concentration, forward planning, lateral thinking and sustained problem solving and, as such, offer a cognitive workout that can benefit overall mental development.
In the past few years academics, teachers and software developers have experimented with different ways to harness the cognitive innovations of games in more directed ways.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Education Arcade project has played a leading role, along with James Paul Gee, author of What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.
Gee argues that the best games offer a model learning experience and suggests teachers can learn useful lessons by looking at how games draw players in and motivate them to concentrate and tackle complex problems.
"Academic areas, like biology or history, are themselves like games," Gee says. "Scientists act and interact in terms of certain identities and values and use knowledge and information to accomplish certain sorts of goals. So learning science should be about learning how to 'play the game' of science."
He is critical of "skill and drill" teaching, which focuses on lists of facts and repetitive testing.
As Johnson says, "the great opportunity is to do simulations that take Sim City, Age of Empires and Civilisation but use real information about what did happen … and let people play out alternate versions of history."
Jane Healy, an educational psychologist and author of Failure to Connect: how computers affect our children's minds - for better and worse, says games need to be used well to be effective.
She says children need to be supervised by an adult who understands learning and games and can encourage them to reflect on what they are doing when they play. This can sometimes take more of a teacher's time than a standard lesson, she says.
Johnson agrees and says schools need to urgently work out how to use games and their cognitive benefits.
"What's our children's working environment going to be like in the future?
"Will it look like their gaming life, where they're checking five emails while having a conversation, while moving through these virtual worlds, or is it going to look like reading a book?
"If we're going to train kids for that future, we probably need environments that are going to reflect what it's really going to be like."
California Video Games Bill Falters
Sat, June 4, 2005
A bill in California which would've banned the sale of what are termed as violent video games to minors has been derailed Reuters reports.
The bill was shelved after Assemblyman Leland Yee could not garner the votes needed for it to pass the full Assembly.
The bill would've fined violators $1,000 and required that all violent games be labeled as such.
There is a chance though that the bill could be reactivated in future.
"I don't think the fight is over in California," Doug Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, told Reuters.
TLC Industries Launches NextArcade
Alongside a portal chock full of great games, TLC Industries presents its NextArcade line of authentic arcade hardware. These range from simple joystick control panels that can be connected to a standard desktop PC, to full-sized 27” arcade cabinets.
“We are all gamers here at TLC and we love playing games downloaded off the internet, but we felt they were missing something … the button mashing, joystick jamming excitement that real arcade games are known for,” says James Hills, TLC Industries’ Marketing Director.
Why should the word “home arcade” be synonymous only with “arcade classics” and emulators? NextArcade wants to change that concept and present today’s greatest PC arcade games the way they deserve to be played. Only a 20 year veteran of the coin-op arcade industry has the experience and perspective to bring this vision into the home. NextArcade’s parent company, TLC Industries is the same company that has shipped nearly half a million cabinets for arcade classics including Golden Tee, Time Crisis, PacMan, Ms. PacMan and Donkey Kong.
“NextArcade is about providing our customers with the excitement of the arcade, whether as a simple control panel for a desktop PC, or as a 27” NextArcade cabinet constructed with the same attention to detail and quality demanded by our clients including Incredible Technologies, Sega, Midway, Namco and Capcom,” says Ed Bender, President of TLC Industries.
In-Game Ads May Boom In Video Games
More and more U.S. TV viewers are fast-forwarding through TV commercials and as a result, in-game advertising in video games, may boom.
Dave Anderson with Activision, a leading maker of video games thinks his company has the answer to excessive fast-forwarding of commercial ads.
In-game advertising is the process by which we take brands and products into the video game in much the same way that theatrically there are products and brands that show up in movies, he says.
In-game advertising reaches males ages 18 to 34, who are especially hard to reach, exactly the audience that Activision delivers, according to Anderson.
Activision has been able to create areas within the storyline of games for brands and products to be displayed or to be placed, Anderson said.
The company is also working with Nielsen Entertainment to measure the reach of these in-game ads, said Anderson.
Violent Video Games Are Not Child’s Play, Washington Officials Warn
Businesses that sell or rent such games — like those in the hugely popular Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat series — to people under 17 could lose their license and face fines of up to 10,000 dollars under a bill unveiled Thursday.
People who sell, rent or furnish such games to minors face a fine of up to 1,000 dollars, according to the regulation, provided to AFP by Washington Councilmember Adrian Fenty’s office.
"These ultraviolent and sexually explicit games are obscene and encourage our youth to commit crime in our community,’’ Fenty warns in a statement on his official Internet site.
"These are not the simple games of a few years ago; these are not like any mainstream action movie. These games graphically depict scenes of rape, murder and mayhem, and even the video industry agrees that they are not suitable for children. It’s time the community takes a stand,’’ he said.
The regulation applies to games that the industrycreated Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has officially declared for "Adults Only,’’ or "AO,’’ which are intended for people 18 and over, and "Mature,’’ or "M,’’ for gamers 17 and over.
The ESRB says "AO’’ games ‘’may include graphic depictions of sex and/or violence,’’ while "M’’ titles "may contain mature sexual themes, more intense violence and/or strong language.’’
The just-released "Playboy: The Mansion,’’ in which gamers take over Hugh Hefner’s magazine empire and hold parties at his famous home, gets an "M’’ for "nudity, strong sexual content (and) use of alcohol,’’ the ESRB warns.
The fighting game "Mortal Kombat: Deception,’’ in which players can kill each other in graphic and gruesome ways, like pulling off an enemy’s head with the spinal column attached, received an "M’’ for "blood and gore (and) violence.’’
A search on the ESRB’s Internet site turned up no "AO’’ games for video-game consoles like the Sony Playstation or the Microsoft X-Box, but found 18 such titles overall, most of them for personal computers
Video Game Convention Like A Giant Arcade
NEIL DAVIDSON, CP
Each year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) fills the cavernous Los Angeles Convention Center, diagonally across from the Staples Centre, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Kings.
The convention is closed to the public, but is still brimming with people. More than 70,000 people from 79 countries attended this year's show.
Delegates range from the media to industry observers and buyers from retail outlets planning their Christmas shopping.
There's plenty to see. The convention's organizers say approximately 400 exhibitors took up more than 50,000 square metres of space to show off more than 5,000 computer and video game products.
Approximately 770,000 kilograms of equipment was hung from the ceiling -- roughly the equivalent of 500 automobiles or 250 elephants.
The convention floor is like a giant open mall, with industry giants such as Sony (PlayStation), Microsoft (Xbox) and Nintendo (GameCube) dominating the skyline.
While exhibitors looked to create a buzz via the media --reviews appear on the Internet almost instantly -- exhibitors also spend time with key retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Future Shop, Best Buy and EB Games.
Top publishers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Vivendi Universal, Square Enix, Konami, Activision and THQ have their own headquarters. Away from the hubbub of the convention floor, deals are struck and interviews are conducted in small private rooms.
Often, small theatres are used to show quick samples of upcoming games. Demonstrations of Ubisoft's King Kong drew long lineups at this year's show.
Video terminals show off new games, often with game designers on hand available for a hands-on demo. Getting your hands on a controller is easier said than done, however. There are lineups everywhere.
Giant video screens hung high overhead show clips from games. The noise level can be deafening; some people wear ear plugs.
While nothing is for sale at the show, many delegates leave with full shopping bags. The swag can be everything from a free T-shirt to an autographed Evel Knievel photo.
And it's worth watching where you go. Take a wrong turn and you can walk into the business end of a giant plastic sword being wielded by a man dressed up as a futuristic warrior at a game booth.
Models in miniskirts can be found smiling at other booths, posing for photographs with delegates.
Many of those who attend the show have more than business on their mind -- they are avid gamers.
Prior to the doors opening at the start of this year's show, a huge crowd waited to get in --as if they were waiting for a concert venue to open. When 10 a.m. finally came, cheers rose and the line snaked inside.
Some upcoming games worth keeping an eye on:
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend
The Tomb Raider series went off the rails last time out, but a new developer, Crystal Dynamics, looks to have the franchise firmly back on track for Eidos. The new Tomb Raider is due out by the end of this year for PS2, Xbox and PC.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Nintendo Canada president Ron Bertram hopes to sell more than 250,000 copies of the new Zelda game, which should make it the best-selling game of the year in Canada. Footage shown at E3 depicted a darker, more adult adventure. Link has definitely grown up since the Wind Waker.
This Nintendo DS title was a sleeper going into E3. But it quickly became a buzz item. Already a hit in Japan, Nintendogs puts you in charge of training and feeding your own pooch. Gamers can use the DS microphone to issue instructions and can touch base with other Nintendog owners by wi-fi, in the so-called bark mode. Nintendogs is due out Aug. 23.
Star Wars: Empire at War
A stunning PC title from Las Vegas developer Petroglyph Games, Empire at War is a real-time strategy game set a few years before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope. Empire at War looks phenomenal -- and it's hard to resist a game that allows you to use the Deathstar to blow up planets. It's due out in the spring of 2006.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Timed for release this fall, along with the movie, this game allows you to play four characters -- Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy -- while battling the White Witch. It will be available on all platforms.
A look at the next-generation video game consoles (no word on price yet):
Sony PlayStation 3
Billed by Sony as the most powerful new machine on the market, the PS3 is due out in spring 2006. Sony boasts that its new "Cell" microprocessor has super-computer-like power. It will play music, movies, hook up nicely with your new high-definition TV and, unlike the Xbox 360, the PS3 can surf the Internet. It can also handle seven wireless controllers, compared to the 360's four. And it's backward-compatible, meaning you can still play your old games on it.
Microsoft Xbox 360
The first of the new consoles to come out, with a launch date of November or December, the 360 will also play games, music and movies -- and will also go nicely with a high-definition TV if you're lucky enough to have one. The new Xbox will allow you to download new game content but will only play top titles from the original Xbox at this stage.
The Revolution has far fewer frills and focuses more on gaming. But it will play movies -- with an accessory -- and you can use it to surf the Net. Nintendo says you will be able to use it to download 20 years of Nintendo titles. And it will be small -- the size of three stacked DVD boxes. Nintendo says the Revolution will hit stores some time in 2006. Revolution will play older Nintendo games.
Pacman Comes To Life Virtually
By Lakshmi Sandhana
Players wear special headsets to be able to see in the gameA human version of the classic arcade game Pacman, superimposing the virtual 3D game world on to city streets and buildings, is being developed by researchers at Singapore.
Players equipped with a wearable computer, headset and goggles can physically enter a real world game space by choosing to play the role of Pacman or one of the Ghosts.
A central computer system keeps track of all their movements with the aid of GPS receivers and a wireless local area network.
The Human Pacman was developed by Adrian David Cheok and his team at the Mixed Reality Lab, National University of Singapore.
Merging different technologies such as GPS, Bluetooth, virtual reality, wi-fi, infrared and sensing mechanisms, the augmented reality game allows gamers to play in a digitally-enhanced maze-like version of the real world.
It has been selected as one of the world's top 100 high-impact and visionary technologies and will showcased at the Wired NextFest 2005 in Chicago, US, which runs from June 24 to 26.
Combining both real and virtual elements, the game allows the human Pacman to 'see' virtual cookies with the aid of the special headset scattered on the street which the player can then 'eat' by walking through them.
The game as seen through the eyes of a playerGhosts get to 'devour' the player by tapping them on the shoulder when they catch up to them within the game area.
In return, Pacman gets the ability to temporarily neutralise them and add to his virtual powers when he finds and picks up Bluetooth-embedded physical sugar jars scattered in the real world environment by a game coordinator.
The player's locations are also wirelessly updated to a virtual 3D Pac-world where online gamers can view their progress and participate by helping either Pacman or the Ghosts through text messaging.
Test runs were conducted on the university campus within a 70m by 70m game zone. With a four-player minimum, a typical game was played out in about 10 to 20 minutes.
Other institutions focused on creating similar games include the University of Southern Australia, which has developed an augmented reality (AR) version of the Quake game.
Accuracy and positioning are some of the major challenges facing researchers creating deployable AR versions of complex games.
"Most attempts at AR games, like AR Pacman or AR Quake, rely on having very accurate models of the physical world such as the trees, cars, buildings, etc. which is practically impossible," said Blair MacIntyre, Director of the Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech.
The main challenge of course lies in placing the models in the right place, so that, for example, we won't see a Pacman walking into the wall of a castle
Adrian David Cheok, Mixed Reality Lab"First, the world is just too complicated, and second, it changes too much - cars and people move, trees grow, etc."
The research team at Singapore says though that a totally accurate real world model is not necessary.
"What we seek is to create an alternate version of representing the real-world by some fantasy landscape," says Mr Cheok.
"An office blocked could be replaced by a castle. We do not really need to have an accurate model of the environment, just a rough gauge will do.
"The main challenge of course lies in placing the models in the right place, so that, for example, we won't see a Pacman walking into the wall of a castle."
With current positioning technologies, this kind of accuracy is still a major issue. Typical GPS receivers have an accuracy of about 10 to 30 meters, but for a flawless gaming experience augmented reality games need the error margin to be within the millimetre range.
Tracking players also becomes impossible when they get too close to high-rise buildings that block GPS signals.
To combat these issues, the Singapore team selected a wide open space as the game area and with advanced Long Range Kinematic (LRK) GPS technology they say they are able to maintain a maximum error level of 30 cm.
The more conventional way to play Pacman If a player's position is lost, the system tries to get the player's orientation through a digital compass, detect the number of steps taken, and predict their current position.
"This is by no means a foolproof method, as the errors do accumulate," says Mr Cheok. "However, it does serve as a feasible temporary solution in case of GPS-signal loss."
However the real drawbacks to creating commercial AR games are the costs involved.
An entire system costs anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. It is expected to take a number of years before the technology can be truly affordable to the average gamer.
Some of the AR gaming technology developed at the University of South Australia is being modified for consumer use.
The researchers have created a start up company called A-Rage that plans to launch augmented reality game engines into market with a target price tag of AUD$500, by the end of 2006.
Experts believe AR technology will revolutionize the gaming experience creating an arena where people move about, socialising and interacting with each other instead of being glued to a computer screen.
"These games symbolize the dawn of an era where real and virtual interactive experience will form part of the routine of our daily lives, allowing users to indulge in the seamless links across different domains be it for entertainment or socialising," says Mr Cheok.