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Pick Up A Fun Pinball Game


Even if you don't care that much for pinball, you'll probably like "Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball," an exciting, inventive game that takes pinball to levels never before played in a pinball arcade or on the PlayStation 2, for that matter. And if you love pinball, "FlipNic" will become one of your favorite games within 10 minutes of gameplay.
Flipnic has many of the elements of traditional pinball, such as flippers and bumpers. There are no plungers to start the ball in motion, however. It simply appears on the playfield. A touch of controller buttons moves the flippers, which starts the ball moving.
But once the ball gets moving, you'll be transported into a pinball world you've never seen before. The lanes aren't simply there to return the ball to you. They're so long and circuitous, they're like roller coaster rides, taking you to more imaginative areas of the pinball table. And when the ball flows along the lanes, you can make it jump to pick up coins (which can give you an extra ball). The multiball function isn't three or even five balls. There must be up to 12 balls on the table at once.
You might think the five different tables, each with its own theme, aren't enough for a video game. But there are more than 70 playable areas on these tables with more than 100 missions to accomplish on your path to pinball glory. The Biology area, for instance, has bright blue jungle butterflies, chomping alligators and rushing waterfalls for the ball to deal with. Add to that a slot machine mode that takes you to various minigames and you'll see the depth of this game seems endless. There's one vertical pinball table carved into a mountainside. It took me the better part of an hour to get the ball to the top of it.
There's even an anti-gravity playfield that makes you feel as though you're playing pinball in space against bumpers that swarm like bees.
The flaws are minor, but they do subtract from the game's generally awesome nature. The subdued voices meant to cheer you on are more suited to a rainy day at National Public Radio, and the cut scenes seem like something made for the first Pentium chip, not the PlayStation 2's Emotion Engine.
But it's the gaming that's important, and that's what shines. For a mere $19.99, "Flipnic" is a steal. It's not only addicting, it has taken a tired video game genre and injected it with life, artfulness and the purest of fun. Now when your ready to by a real life pinball machine call The Game Gallery 1.800.966.9873 - Fun for the whole family..New Nascar Pinball Now available $4495.


First Perfect 'Pac-Man' Earns Fame

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. July 15, 2005 12:12:04 AM IST
Six years after his amazing feat, Floridian Billy Mitchell remains a legend as the first person to play a perfect Pac-Man arcade game.
Never a day goes by, he told the Detroit Free Press, that he's not recognized on the street, thanks to his many TV appearances and honors. I'd be lying to you if I told you it wasn't fun, he said.
The Pac-Man arcade game celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer and an estimated 10 billion games had been played in arcades worldwide when Mitchell did the impossible in July 1999. Video game enthusiasts are said to equate his achievement to finding the Holy Grail.
It took six hours for Mitchell to guide the famed yellow hero through 256 levels of dots, fruits and ghosts. The founder of Namco, the company that created Pac-Man, had no idea how he did it.
Namco named Mitchell the greatest video game player of the century. (UPI)


Clinton Takes Aim At Video Games

From correspondents in Washington15 jul 05
US Senator Hillary Clinton has demanded new protections for children from graphic video games, as a row raged over sexual content that gamers can insert into hugely popular release Grand Theft Auto.Mrs Clinton, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, singled out Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas following reports that users can download a hack from the internet, which introduces pornographic scenes to the game.
"The disturbing material in Grand Theft Auto and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children and it's making the difficult job of being a parent any harder," said the former first lady.
"I believe that the ability of our children to access pornographic and outrageously violent material on video games rated for adults is spiralling out of control."
Mrs Clinton called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate who was behind the hack, which is not produced by the game's creator, Rockstar Games.
She said she would introduce legislation to impose a $US5000 ($6678) fine on retailers who sell pornographic or outrageously violent material to minors.
Political observers will note Mrs Clinton is taking on the gaming industry, at a time when it is reaping growing criticism from parents, and after 'morals' voters were credited with a key role in the last US presidential election.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the latest incarnation of a smash hit game which lets users cruise through the streets, stealing cars, and shooting various characters, including rival gang members, police, and passers-by.
Rockstar said in a statement that it fully supported efforts to keep mature-rated video game content out of the hands of young children.
Games given an M rating by the industry's self-regulators, like Grand Theft Auto, meaning they are suitable for ages 17 and older, were never intended for children, it said.
"We are disappointed by comments that misrepresent Grand Theft Auto, detracting from the innovative and artistic merits of the game," Rockstar said.
"Unfortunately, the recent confusion only serves to suggest that games do not deserve the same treatment as other forms of creative expression."
Rockstar was also quoted on several game industry websites as denying all culpability in the downloadable "hot coffee" 'mod' which allows a user to introduce sexual content.
Changes to the game, which screen grabs posted on gaming websites showed allowed the character controlled by the gamer to engage in sex with several women characters, were the product of reverse engineering of the game's source code, Rockstar was quoted as saying.


Gadgets Of The Week: Educational Games 'To Go'

New technology toys are further blurring the line between educational software and television. Consider VTech's V.Smile Pocket, a book-size gadget for ages 3 to 8 that plays arcade games laced with educational content.
Available for $90 at major electronics and toy stores, it also runs 19 games made for the console-size version, released last year.
Plugged into a TV, the device acts like a standard game controller.
Pull the plug, and the game switches to the V.Smile Pocket speaker and screen. Instead of prying a stubborn player away from the TV, you can carry the child right out the door, game in hand.
The crisp color screen is better than the one on the Leapster L-Max from Leapfrog, due in August, and the software library features children's all-stars like Bob the Builder and Mickey Mouse. Every cartridge has plenty of mazes, shooting galleries and scavenger hunts, and all the games are focused on teaching things like letters, colors and math skills.

A camera easy on the eyes
Despite their high-resolution images, film cameras suffer from a basic problem: a frustratingly small viewfinder that you must align with your eyeball. Digital cameras changed that with liquid-crystal displays.
But these neat mini-TVs tend to be thirsty for battery power, compelling many digital shooters to resort to the thumbnail viewfinder.
Samsung's Pro815 has innovations that address both problems. It features a high-capacity lithium-ion battery that powers up to 500 shots a charge. And with its impressive 3.5-inch display - as much screen real estate as you get in some bulky photo vaults - you may never want to bend your nose against the back of the camera again.
The camera has a 15X optical zoom lens, uses Compact Flash storage cards and has a shutter lag of only half a second.
The Pro815 will be available next month for $849 in the United States, certainly more expensive than basic point-and-shoot models. But if you calculate the costs of broken eyeglasses from jamming your face into a camera back, it may not be a bad deal.
- Andrew Zipern (NYT)


Video Games Not All Bad

Reuters London, July 15, 2005

In young children and adolescents video games can lead to excessive use and aggressive behaviour, but a leading expert said on Friday the games ease pain, distract patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and help to develop dexterity.
“The degree of attention needed to play a game can distract the player from the sensation of pain,” Prof Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham University in England, said in an editorial in the British Medical Journal.
In patients with arm injuries, the games have been used to increase strength and dexterity while children with learning disabilities have played them to develop spatial ability.
Therapeutic benefits have also been reported for a variety of adult populations, including wheelchair users with spinal cord injuries, people with severe burns and people with muscular dystrophy.
Although the reported negative effects, which include wrist pain, hallucinations and repetitive strain injuries, have been widely reported, Griffiths said they tended to be temporary and could be caused by other factors.
“Some of these adverse effects seem to be rare and many resolve when the patients no long play the games,” he added.


Video Games - Useful In Healthcare?

[Posted: Fri 15/07/2005]
While much concern has been expressed in recent years about children's increasing use of video games, one expert has argued that in some areas of healthcare at least, such games can be useful.
According to Mark Griffiths, a professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, one area in which video games may prove useful is that of pain management.
"One innovative application of video games in healthcare is their use in pain management, as the degree of attention needed to play such a game can distract the player from the sensation of pain", Professor Griffiths explained.
He said that they can also provide cognitive (mental) distraction for children during chemotherapy and have been used as a form of physiotherapy, or to help social and spatial skills in many different groups of people.
However Professor Griffiths acknowledged that there is a growing body of evidence highlighting the more negative aspects of play, particularly when it comes to children and adolescents.
These include the risk of addiction, increased aggressiveness, repetitive strain injuries and obesity.
"On balance, there is little evidence that moderate frequency of play has serious adverse effects, but more evidence is needed on excessive play and on defining what constitutes excess in the first place", Professor Griffiths said.
There should also be long-term studies on the course of videogame addiction, he added.
Professor Griffiths made his comments in the British Medical Journal.



Video Games Are Not Necessarily Turning Kids Brains into Mush

Posted by: Bonnie Bracey
It's summer vacation. The kids have acres of time to fill. So, of course, they're in the basement playing some video game that involves either weapons or skateboards.Who can doubt that their minds are turning into chipped beef on toast as they sit in the dim light, their educations and social lives leaking away? As a conscientious baby boomer parent, I feel a gravitational pull to say these words: “Turn that off and read a book!”Or play piano, or run outside, or get in a street fight. Anything but play more video games.Except … apparently that kind of thinking is all wrong.The sense that video games are bad is about to become as dated as the four basic food groups, the philosophy of spare the rod and spoil the child, and asbestos as a safety feature.Video games might be about the best thing your kids can do to ensure their future success. Better, even, than reading. At least that's what two books (ironically enough) and a growing chunk of conventional wisdom are saying.



Stern has replacement back glass for NASCAR

A Miller Lite logo is featured on Rusty Wallace's 2 car in the back glass of the NASCAR pinball machine. If any operator or homeowner is sensitive to the Miller Lite logo, Stern Pinball offers for exchange a replacement back glass that does not contain the Miller Lite logo. To obtain this replacement back glass, call the Stern distributor through which the game was purchased.
Stern Pinball, NASCAR, and Miller understand that a product with an alcohol-related logo can create issue in a particular location. Therefore, Stern Pinball, NASCAR, and Miller have all given permission for Stern distributors, game operators, and/or homeowners to change the back glass to one that does not contain the Miller Lite logo. On the replacement backglass, an official Rusty Wallace logo will be on Rusty Wallace's 2 car in place of the Miller Lite logo.


Stern Has Replacement Back Glass For NASCAR

A Miller Lite logo is featured on Rusty Wallace's 2 car in the back glass of the NASCAR pinball machine. If any operator or homeowner is sensitive to the Miller Lite logo, Stern Pinball offers for exchange a replacement back glass that does not contain the Miller Lite logo. To obtain this replacement back glass, call the Stern distributor through which the game was purchased.
Stern Pinball, NASCAR, and Miller understand that a product with an alcohol-related logo can create issue in a particular location. Therefore, Stern Pinball, NASCAR, and Miller have all given permission for Stern distributors, game operators, and/or homeowners to change the back glass to one that does not contain the Miller Lite logo. On the replacement backglass, an official Rusty Wallace logo will be on Rusty Wallace's 2 car in place of the Miller Lite logo.


Stern Has Replacement Back Glass For NASCAR

A Miller Lite logo is featured on Rusty Wallace's 2 car in the back glass of the NASCAR pinball machine. If any operator or homeowner is sensitive to the Miller Lite logo, Stern Pinball offers for exchange a replacement back glass that does not contain the Miller Lite logo. To obtain this replacement back glass, call the Stern distributor through which the game was purchased.
Stern Pinball, NASCAR, and Miller understand that a product with an alcohol-related logo can create issue in a particular location. Therefore, Stern Pinball, NASCAR, and Miller have all given permission for Stern distributors, game operators, and/or homeowners to change the back glass to one that does not contain the Miller Lite logo. On the replacement backglass, an official Rusty Wallace logo will be on Rusty Wallace's 2 car in place of the Miller Lite logo.


Stern Has Replacement Back Glass For NASCAR

A Miller Lite logo is featured on Rusty Wallace's 2 car in the back glass of the NASCAR pinball machine. If any operator or homeowner is sensitive to the Miller Lite logo, Stern Pinball offers for exchange a replacement back glass that does not contain the Miller Lite logo. To obtain this replacement back glass, call the Stern distributor through which the game was purchased.
Stern Pinball, NASCAR, and Miller understand that a product with an alcohol-related logo can create issue in a particular location. Therefore, Stern Pinball, NASCAR, and Miller have all given permission for Stern distributors, game operators, and/or homeowners to change the back glass to one that does not contain the Miller Lite logo. On the replacement backglass, an official Rusty Wallace logo will be on Rusty Wallace's 2 car in place of the Miller Lite logo.



Sega Successfully Lobbies Minnesota on Arcade Horse Racing

Sega Amusements has announced that it has successfully lobbied the state of Minnesota to allow arcade horse racing games such as Sega's own Derby Owners Club, as well as machines from third parties such as Ultracade's Breeders’ Cup - Tournament Edition, to be operated in the state, following the 2003 banning of racing arcade machines under gaming laws.Through Sega's in-house and outside legal counsel including the firms of Lord, Bissel & Brook LLP (Chicago, IL), and Nolan, MacGregor, Thompson & Leighton (St. Paul, MN), Sega initiated a coordinated lobbying effort in the Minnesota House and Senate focused on changing the Minnesota Criminal Code’s definition of a video game of chance, and the bills were incorporated in omnibus bills that passed in the Senate 55 to 2 and in the House 114 to 20 on May 23rd, 2005.The specific language in the Minnesota Gaming Act was modified to state; a video game that simulates horse racing and does not involve a prize payout is not an illegal video game of chance, and though this decision occurred several weeks ago, arcade operators such as David R. Foley, CEO of UltraCade Technologies, are still lauding the decision, commenting: "Obviously everyone in the industry was concerned about this treatment. Our Breeders’ Cup game, and the Sega game do not offer any way for a player to win extra credits or place bets on races."The now-resolved problem illuminates some of the problems with video game laws that are exclusive to a particular U.S. state, most recently in the news due to state-specific video game violence laws in various stages of development.


Elijah Wood Says Video Game Concert Isn't 'A Nerd Event'

07.11.2005 8:04 PM EDT
Laser-and-light show features classical-music orchestras recreating music from 'Zelda,' 'Halo.'
Video Games Live show Photo: MTV News
A classical-music concert is crashed by a man who rappels onto the stage carrying a machine gun. Another man — this one in a ski mask — spots him, and a large exclamation point lights up over his head. Behind them, the conductor of the orchestra keeps waving his arms in rhythm, and the show goes on.This was the spectacle of Video Games Live, a touring concert of video game music that kicked off last week at Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl. The concert featured the L.A. Philharmonic running through a set list that ranged from "Pong" to "Halo." Performances were accompanied by lasers and lights, along with big-screen projections of video game footage and live-action segments, like the rappelling number, which was used to amp up a segment on "Metal Gear Solid.""I've been waiting for this my entire life," said Tommy Tallarico, 37, a video game composer with 15 years of experience and, with composer Jack Wall, a co-founder of the concert series. "It's time for video game music to rise up and take over the world."Concerts for video game music, once unheard of, have become a minor trend thanks to this summer's Video Games Live tour and a series of American concerts dedicated to the music of "Final Fantasy" composer Nobuo Uematsu that have been running since May of last year. It's a sign, perhaps, that video game music is coming of age."I get people still sending me tapes in the mail of beep-beep-boop-boop," said game designer Dave Perry, whose résumé includes "Earthworm Jim" and "Enter the Matrix." "They think we're playing 'Pac-Man' today. What you've got to realize is no, no, no, we're using the same orchestra James Horner would use to make 'Titanic.' "The music might be good, but would notoriously homebound gamers want to go out and hear it? And might the CD-based PlayStation era have turned gamers more on to the licensed tracks from mega-hits like "Madden" and "Grand Theft Auto" than jingles from the oldies and scores from new titles? "The first thing I wanted to know is how many people would show up at a concert like this," said "Metal Gear Solid" designer Hideo Kojima, who attended the event in Los Angeles.An estimated 10,000 people, many of them teens and pre-teens with their parents, showed up for the Hollywood Bowl."I think something like this would normally be categorized as sort of like a nerd event, but it's clearly not," said Elijah Wood, who provided a sprinkling of star power along with Stan Lee and Gary Coleman. Wood, who helped debut the Xbox 360 on MTV in May (see "New Xbox To Be Unveiled By Elijah Wood, Serenaded By Killers"), said he was most excited to catch some "Super Mario" music. "The L.A. Philharmonic and classic video game scores? I'm excited."The orchestral scope of game music was in evidence at the Video Games Live concert, as the Philharmonic delivered rousing renditions of the themes from "Zelda" and "Halo." That isn't to say there weren't beeps and boops; the concert opened with a montage of classic arcade games which played on a large screen as the orchestra strummed notes, first to sound out the ball from the music-free "Pong," and then for the music of "Asteroids" and beyond.Tallarico said he first had dreams of an event like this when he was 10 and thought it was just a matter of time before the medium would command the respect for a full-scale concert. He said a video game concert couldn't have happened five years ago. Games weren't big enough.Today, in one sign that game music is making it big, Billboard's top 10 ring tones include the likes of 50 Cent and Mariah Carey. But the longest running track on the list, at 38 weeks — 17 weeks longer than its closest competitor — is the "Super Mario Bros" theme by Koji Kondo."This is something you dream about as a composer," said Gerard Marino, who composed music for the PlayStation 2 hit "God of War." "You think one day in the distant future I'll achieve a Hollywood Bowl concert with the L.A. Phil."Tallarico hoped the concert would highlight one of the key aspects of video game music: its interactivity. That's the key quality composers need to accommodate when making workable video game music. "Our biggest challenge is trying to come up with music that we know at any point can branch to something else," he said. While a film composer might need to score a scene of one set length and tone (a 10-minute car chase, for example), a game composer needs to allow for scenes that can change in mood and duration at unpredictable moments depending on what the player does. The "Metal Gear" set, he said, was designed to show this off, as the orchestra switched styles while the actors onstage changed what they were doing.Just as the Video Games Live concert is raising awareness of games, some of the attending composers said they hoped it might reignite enthusiasm for classical concerts. "The 20-and-under crowd has stopped going to symphonies," Tallarico said. "They've stopped going to see Stravinsky and Mozart. What a great way to introduce themselves to orchestra."Conversely, video game music is already rising in popularity with classical musicians. "I think it's the next place classical music is going," said Laura Karpman, who composed music for "EverQuest II." "I think it's very relevant."For some, there was hope that concerts such as Video Games Live could help buff gaming's sometimes tarnished image. "Gamers are getting hit left and right for violent content, for sexual content and people are just attacking games," said "God of War" designer David Jaffe. "I think it's nice to have a counterpunch to that. It's like, games aren't just about violence. They're about great music and art and imagination and all kinds of amazing talent coming together and creating interactive experiences."For more on video game concerts, check out VideoGamesLive.com and http://www.square-enix-usa.com/uematsu/concert/dear_friends.html.



Grand Theft Auto's Dirty Little Secret

Allie Shah and Patrice Relerford, Star Tribune
July 9, 2005

Think Lara Croft is as sexy as a video game gets?
Think again.
A Minnesota organization issued a nationwide parental alert Friday about the video game, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," claiming that it contains hidden pornography. A modification can be downloaded from the Internet that allows players to see female characters naked, and show a male and female character engaged in various graphic sexual positions.
It's the first time the group, the National Institute on Media and the Family, has issued a national warning to parents and retailers about a video game.
Now, the group that rates video games has started an investigation.
"By anyone's reckoning, these scenes qualify as pornography," David Walsh, the institute's founder and president, said at a news conference Friday in Minneapolis.
He said the benefit of alerting parents outweighed the risk of exposing more kids to the changes. "My guess is that very few parents know about this. Kids get this information all the time."
It wasn't clear whether the content originated with the game or with the modification. The game's publisher, Rockstar Games, wouldn't say.
The sex scene in the game is commonly known, was allegedly unleashed by a game enthusiast from the Netherlands who hosts a "modding," or modification, site. The modification, called the Hot Coffee Mod V2.1, has been available on websites related to the game since June 9. The name comes from the minigames in which scantily clad animated women invite the game's heroes to have coffee after dates.
The mod's author -- Patrick Wildenborg of Deventer, Netherlands -- said that his code merely unlocks content that is already in the game.
"If Rockstar Games denies that, then they're lying and I will be able to prove that," Wildenborg, 36, wrote in an e-mail to the Associated Press. "My mod does not introduce anything to the game. All the content that is shown was already present on the DVD."
Game designers have long tucked hidden elements in their work, some meant to be found, others not. Gaming magazines print codes that can be entered during game play that allow players to jump to various levels, get unlimited ammunition or become invincible.
Walsh called on the video- game rating group, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), to increase the game's rating from M, for mature audiences ages 17 and older, to AO, for adults only or those 18 and older.
Walsh also called on Rockstar Games to disclose what measures it is taking to alert the public. "We want to know what role they've had in the production and distribution of these pornographic scenes," he said.
In a statement issued Friday, Rockstar Games said: "We thoroughly support the work of the ESRB and believe that it has an exemplary record of rating games and promoting understanding of video game content. We also feel confident that the investigation will uphold the original rating of the game, as the work of the mod community is beyond the scope of either publishers or the ESRB."
Dawn Bryant, a Best Buy spokeswoman, said that the chain does not carry video games that are rated AO and that it checks the identification of customers who are buying the M-rated games. She didn't know if the chain would pull the game from its shelves.
Walsh said that the institute has long believed that the "Grand Theft Auto" games should be given an AO rating because of "the violence, gore and brutal treatment of women" in the games. But the scenes available through the modification raise this to a new level, he said.
"There are some in the video game industry who keep pushing the envelope," he said, adding that parents need to push back when the industry crosses the line of decency.


Video Games Live Tour

In other news, did anyone else hear about the Video Games Live concert at the Hollywood Bowl? It's true! Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra played the theme music from Myst, Halo, Tron, Frogger and Donkey Kong, complete with a choir. It truly is amazing how much video games have advanced in culture. Huge concert events just to play music from video games? I know I always wanted life to be like a game but you never expect it to happen. Even Stan Lee, co-creator of the comic book characters Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, was there to enjoy an earful or digitized symphony.
Of course just hearing the music wasn't enough. At Video Games Live, the orchestra performed beneath a jumbo screen which showed scenes from the games whose music was being played. Live performers act out scenes from the games. Fans were selected to play video games while the orchestra played along.
I had always thought that the music in video games could never complete with the great classics such as Super Mario Bros., Tetris, and The Legend of Zelda. But with games like Halo, Metal Gear Solid, and Disgaea whose musical scores are on a whole other level of greatness, it would seem that I was wrong. Hard core fans make their ways to stores or order online, the soundtracks to these great games. Tim Larkin, who wrote the score for Myst, says that a cheap score for video games could be done for $15,000. But many game publishers, he says, now pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a composition. That is a LOT of money! While those compositions are fantastic, I have heard some very excellent re mixes of game music on the site OverClocked ReMix (www.ocremix.org) that rivals and even sometimes blows away, the original. I highly recommend visiting that site. Especially to hear a remix of CutMan's theme called "CutMan Sonata" from MegaMan by a composer called McVaffe.
The Videogames Live Tour continues on and ill be coming to a city near you!
Thursday, August 11 Atlanta, GA Chastain Park Amphitheatre 8:00 PM
Saturday, August 13 Holmdel, NJ PNC Bank Arts Center 8:00 PM
Sunday, August 14 Camden, NJ Tweeter Center at the Waterfront 8:00 PM
Friday, August 19 Bristow, VA Nissan Pavilion 8:00 PM
Monday, August 22 Boston, MA Bank of America Pavilion 8:00 PM
Wednesday, August 24 Cleveland, OH Tower City Amphitheater 8:00 PM
Thursday, August 25 Columbus, OH Germain Amphitheater 8:00 PM
Friday, August 26 Cincinnati, OH Riverbend Music Center 8:00 PM
Saturday, August 27 Chicago, IL Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island 8:00 PM
Sunday, August 28 Clarkston, MI DTE Energy Music Theatre 8:00 PM
Thursday, September 1 Denver, CO Universal Lending Pavilion 8:00 PM
Sunday, September 4 Woodlands, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion 8:00 PM
Tuesday, September 6 Phoenix, AZ Cricket Pavilion 7:30 PM
Wednesday, September 7 San Diego, CA SDSU Open Air Theatre 8:00 PM
Friday, September 9 Mountain View, CA Shoreline Amphitheatre 8:00 PM
Sunday, September 11 Irvine, CA Verizon Wireless Amphitheater 8:00 PM
Check out their site at: www.videogameslive.com
Enjoy the music and I'll be back with more freshness in the next Rad Chaotic Review! This is Rad signing off.


Video Games With A Christian Spin

San Anselmo firm offers alternative to violence-filled products
By Jim Welte
Sick of seeing a video game market dominated by violence and sex, a group of Marin Christians are looking to bring God to gamers.
Virtue Games, a fledgling, San Anselmo-based maker of Christian-themed computer games, hopes to fill a void in the increasingly salacious video game sector, according to company President Rick Tewell. With adventure games that center on Christian stories or allegories with Christian undertones, Virtue hopes to improve what has been a Christian game market mired in mediocrity, he said.
"Instead of sitting back and complaining about the problem, we wanted to do something about it," Tewell said. "There is absolutely a void in the market for Christian-themed games and we plan to fill it."
To do so, the company knows it will have to compete with a video game market that has gravitated in recent years to games with mature themes. "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," which features pimps, gangsters and a heap of violence, was the best-selling video game of 2004, selling 5.1 million copies as of last December, according to NPD Funworld.
Rattling off a series of popular games that prominently feature extreme wartime and gang-oriented violence, Tewell said game makers need to take more responsibility for the impact of their games.
"How graphic do we want to get with this?" he asks. "Graphics are getting so real that it is indistinguishable from the real thing, and I can do these reprehensible things in these games and I don't have to go to jail for it."
But simply offering a violence-free, Christian-themed alternative won't cut it, according to John Taylor, a video game industry analyst with Arcadia Investment Research in Portland, Ore.
"The core game market is probably not that interested in this stuff," he said. "At the end of the day the game has to be fun and fulfilling, and so does the story. If it is preachy, it might attract parents wanting to buy it for their kids, but in terms of reaching the kids playing the games, the fun factor is element number one here."
"I'm looking forward to seeing what kinds of creative ways that they give people the same rush that they get from doing good that they get from doing naughty," he continued. "People like doing things in the digital world that you're not allowed to do in the real world, like blowing things up and creating mayhem."
Tewell said his company is up to the challenge.
"We know that we need to create the same endorphin release that a kid gets when he blows something up in a game," he said.
Virtue will employ adventure-oriented games with engaging graphics like those seen in movies like "Shrek" and Pixar Animation Studios' "The Incredibles," he said.
They've already brought on several graphic artists and writers and have enlisted several industry veterans, including some consultants with backgrounds at George Lucas' San Rafael-based Industrial Light & Magic, as consultants.
"We want to create games that can compete with their secular counterparts," Tewell said.
The idea for a Christian-themed video game company stemmed from Tewell's involvement with the Marin Covenant Church in San Rafael.
Married with two children, Tewell has a lengthy background as a software engineer.
A few years after the digital video camcorder technology company he founded was bought by a larger corporation, Tewell launched Thousand Mile Productions as a multimedia company focused on the Christian market. The idea was to create music and publishing firms focused on making Sunday school and Christian day camp curricula more engaging for children.
"I was looking for something that married the technology side with the spiritual side of what I felt like God was calling me to do," Tewell said. "Most church Sunday school programs are really dry and boring, and all this technology is available now to us to tell a story. We wanted to bring that into the Christian setting."
Tewell then connected with Cheyenne Woolford, who lives near Yosemite and has for several years made video games targeting Christians. Thousand Mile Productions acquired Woolford's Virtue Creations and renamed it Virtue Games in January 2004, and the company is beginning to find its legs, Tewell said.
Woolford now serves as the company's chief game architect. He's already produced two titles, and is currently at work on a third, "Mayabin," which Tewell said will be the "the best Christian computer game ever produced." The game is similar to the story "Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis, which will have film and video game versions released later this year.
Tewell said gold status - 500,000 copies sold - is a target for "Mayabin." Virtue plans to release games following the stories of Joan of Arc and St. Patrick in the next two years.
The company plans to be cash-flow positive by January 2006, and projects revenues between $1.2 million to $3.5 million over the next 12 months.
To help it get there, Virtue just signed a distribution deal with Waterfront Books, a Vermont-based children's specialty distributor with ties to the Christian Booksellers Association. Tewell said Waterfront will help Virtue get its games on the prized shelves of Wal-Mart, Kmart and Costco.
Taylor noted that big box retailers like Wal-Mart have declined to sell some violent video games, which could work to Virtue's advantage.
"But at some point it will face the same performance hurdles that any other game would face in trying to get shelf space," he said. "Retailers just aren't that patient."
Tewell is confident the company will be received well by both Christians and mainstream gamers.
"We're not trying to create games that convert people, but we are a Christian game company," he said.
And the irony of a Christian-themed video game company sprouting up in a liberal pocket of one of the most liberal counties in the country is not lost on Tewell.
"But the biggest response we've gotten has been in the blue states, believe it or not," he said.
Name: Virtue Games
Location: San Anselmo
President: Rick Tewell
Product: Christian-themed video games
Employees: less than 10
Projected annual revenue: $1.2 million to $3.5 million
Contact: 785-3214; www.virtuegames.com


Testing Games Means Long Hours, Sore Thumbs - And A Dream Job

Associated Press
EDISON, N.J. - When Jonathan Black saw the help-wanted ad last year in The Star-Ledger, it seemed too good to be true.
He still hardly believes his luck.
Black gets paid to test video games for Majesco Entertainment, a small company in Edison.
"It is the coolest job. Nothing is better than playing games all day," Black, 23, shouts over simulated gunfire and throbbing bass riffs in the Los Angeles Convention Center during the mobbed E3 video gaming show in May.
Voluptuous "booth babes" beckoned at every turn, but Black's partner was a gruesome mannequin with a chewed-out face and a shinbone poking through a swath of gore. Behind them, monitors showed off "Infected," a game that pits players against zombies spewing a flesh-eating virus.
Other screens tracked a great white shark from the forthcoming "Jaws Unleashed." Black thumbed a controller. Chomp! Off came a surfer's leg. Chomp!! A swimmer's head was dessert.
Days later, Black washed ashore on Martha's Vineyard for JawsFest, where he represented the game at the 30th anniversary celebration of the movie "Jaws."
"There were a lot of obsessive people," Black says afterward. "Even I was aghast."
With its sea of Dilbert-gray cubicles, Majesco headquarters looks no different from any office in America. Wade deeper, though, and discover pockets of pubescence, an island of juvenilia.
"I'm like a 16-year senior in high school," says graybeard Joe McHale, 34, who oversees two dozen testers as quality assurance manager.
Microsoft Xboxes, Sony PlayStations and Nintendo GameCubes vie for space with legions of comic book figurines. Posters of comely vixens are tacked behind computer monitors. "Hunter S. Gollum," a Tolkien-esque totem dressed in dark shades and trench coat, surveys the scene.
Comfy recliners are essential for all the 14-hour days and lost weekends that precede product launches such as "Advent Rising" and the "Psychonauts." A pingpong table is popular; a gym is not. Testers wear baggy cargo shorts and sneakers and Mighty Mouse T-shirts and Red Sox caps.
The place runs on caffeinated beverages. "You can't go wrong with Red Bull," says Black, a one-time criminal justice student who was selling video games at Best Buy when the Majesco gig fell from heaven.
But game-testing is not all fun and games. Quality control is no laughing matter for the $7.3 billion U.S. computer and video gaming software industry, where shoddy graphics or glitches in a game that retails for $50 can kill a company's reputation.
Testing counts even more for a small outfit like Majesco, which went public in 2003 and sports the ticker symbol "COOL." Headed by Carl Yankowski, former chief executive of Palm and past president of Sony Electronics, the company employs 71 people and ekes out a slim profit - after losing $49 million a year ago - publishing computer and console games produced by developers in Hungary, Canada and the United States.
"They can't afford to have a miss or a flop," says Francis Mao, editorial director of GamePro magazine.
On a warm June afternoon, Black stared at the umpteenth revision of "Jaws Unleashed," a game he has been testing since February for an autumn release.
"That was a bug," Black informed a visitor, noting a barely noticeable pause in the ominous soundtrack. He dutifully entered the details into a database.
His fellow testers range from 19 to 34. All but one are male, and all but two are single. About half still live with parents. They play the same games until those games practically become an extension of their nervous systems; one sees Aurelians in her sleep.
They don't play to win. They play to break the games.
Animated characters jump through walls thousands of times, and die a hundred deaths, as testers dare each game to hiccup.
They look for flaws in plot and logic and video angles. Consulting thick tomes from Microsoft and Sony, they time how long it takes games to load, and comb on-screen text for misspellings and inconsistent terms. They evaluate "playability" of games from rivals and prospective suppliers, and field customer support calls from gamers who consider themselves (mistakenly, most often) to be experts.
All for $8.50 to $11 an hour, and a foot in the door.
"It's the mailroom of the game industry," says Rob Cooper, 25, who rose from "tester" to "senior lead quality assurance analyst" since leaving Toys "R" Us three years ago.
Like Black, Cooper aspires to become a producer - the person who oversees creative aspects of developing games. Executive producers can earn as much as $100,000, according to the Web site Animation Arena.
Cooper has extra incentives: a wife and two young children. He wishes he could see more of them, but the overtime is hard to beat. Still, Cooper promises to supervise closely his kids' game playing.
"The younger you are, and the more you see it, the more it could destabilize you," he says of graphic violence. Parents must "moderate what kids see, and put it in the proper context, the same as when you take them to the movies."
McHale says Majesco testers get health benefits, a 401(k) plan and vacations, too, though he can't remember taking one in two years.
Employees of Electronic Arts last year sued that giant game developer, alleging they work excessive schedules without extra pay.
While McHale says testers are paid for every hour they work at Majesco, "We explain that there will be times they will be living here."
He says there are 50 to 100 applicants for every opening. Hires short on focus, patience or team spirit wash out quickly. "We don't want any drama," McHale says.
Perfection is elusive. While reviewers have praised Majesco's wacky "Psychonauts" game, USA Today rapped sci-fi adventure "Advent Rising" as buggy and crash-prone.
Testers aren't computer programmers; most simply love playing video games.
Gina Giacobbe is an aspiring fantasy novelist who quit a chocolate shop to become Majesco's lone female tester. She prefers role-playing games - even though Majesco does not publish any.
When the boys gather at lunch for a quick round of Activision's "Call of Duty" war game, she says sheepishly, "I just die instantly. I can't play. I let them kill me over and over again."
Pranks break the tension of marathon sessions. One tester returned from a road trip to find his entire cubicle redone in Malibu Barbie pink.
And there are some amusing calls; Majesco's toll-free number is similar to one that used to handle bookings of an erotic nature. "Sometimes people call asking to reserve the Jungle Room," Cooper says with a laugh.


Video Game Developers Want More Diverse Actors In Games

By Heather Barr and David Levine

This is a clip from a new video game distributed by Entertainment Arts Research, an African-American-owned company that is coming out with several games that have minority characters.When John Wilson, 20, plays video games, he likes to be able to relate to the characters.
It's not easy. Part Hispanic and part black, Wilson doesn't see many video games with diverse characters.
"There are no black people whatsoever," said the Western Connecticut State University student. "There should be more. There aren't any black and Hispanic characters in popular roles."
When Western Connecticut State University sophomore Jonathan Schneider does see minority characters in a video game, they usually fulfill stereotypes – they play sports or belong to gangs.
"It's kind of racist," Schneider said. "They use us for gangs. You don't ever see anything positive. It's kind of wrong to have games like sports with black people because that's what they're good at and have all the other games about white people."
He used the example of the popular video game "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," which has black and Hispanic characters belonging to gangs.
The issue has caught the attention of some video game developers, like Mario Armstrong of Baltimore. He said one basketball video game called "NBA Ballers" is really far-fetched. Players try to win the basketball game so they can get money and buy more jewelry to wear.
"It is a little over the top," said Armstrong.
Wanting to get more minorities in on the action, Armstrong, 34, has partnered with Joseph Saulter, 56, of Atlanta and Roderick Woodruff, 59, of Ellicott City, Md., to create the Urban Video Game Academy.
The academy is a free, five-week Game Programming 101 course for middle and high school students, specifically minorities or those who are financially unable to get education. The academy teaches students about video game development from programming to creating a story line.
It is not that the video game industry is pushing minorities with ideas away, said Woodruff, rather there are many minorities who are unable to afford education in game development.
Classes that teach video game programming are costly and can range in the hundreds, Armstrong said.
"The program was one way to fill the pipeline with diversity," he said.
Woodruff is president and co-founder of aagamer.com, short for African-American gamer. The Web site provides editorials, features, news and information about the video game industry from a minority perspective.
His wife, Connie Briscoe-Woodruff, a best-selling author, co-founded the site.
An avid online video game player, she got her husband into playing games beyond just solitaire and poker.
Armstrong is Baltimore's technology advocate. He creates community and economic development and special programs dealing with technology.
Saulter is CEO of Entertainment Arts Research, an African-American-owned video game company in Atlanta.
The men are addressing a common criticism about the use of minorities in the video game industry.
"The stereotypical basketball video games have African-Americans. About 80 percent of African-Americans (in video games) are ballplayers," Saulter said.
Chris Roumanis, 17, a senior this fall at Newtown High School, would welcome more diverse video game characters.
"Having more developers with different backgrounds broadens the subject matter which can be played," he said.
His brother, Branden Roumanis, 20, a computer design major at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who wants to develop video games as a career, has noticed the lack of diverse characters in the industry, especially women characters.


Life Imitates Video Games, And You Are The Superhero

MagiQuest is a new live-action adventure game that immerse guests in a fantasy world of imagination and interactive play where they become a main part of the story.
MagiQuest works like a video game in its sense of scoring and multiple levels of play.
It is a 3-D fantasy world kids and parents move through together. MagiQuest encourages friends and family to work together to achieve their goals.
Through role-playing, intellect, teamwork and imagination, players use their magic wands and earned powers to achieve increasing levels of success.
After the game, the magic wand is yours, as well as your adventures.
When 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. today
Where 1185 Celebrity Circle, Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach
How much Wand $10.99, $7.99 hourly 913-9460

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