Bushnell (creator of Pong) Named A Judge On USA Network/Home Shopping Network’s New Reality Show

USA Network and Home Shopping Network (HSN) have joined forces on a new, groundbreaking reality show called Made in the USA, in which America's undiscovered inventors and entrepreneurs will compete for an unparalleled chance of a lifetime to sell their invention on HSN.
Made in the USA is hosted by Todd Newton, perhaps best-known to audiences as the former "Voice of E!" on E! Entertainment Television. Newton is joined by a cast of eclectic characters who will preside over the competition and judge what invention the public will ultimately choose for the opportunity to sell on HSN.
Nolan Bushnell, best known for inventing Pong, will fill one of the judges' seats. Joy Mangano, multimillionaire inventor of "The Miracle Mop" and industrial designer and cultural shaper Karim Rashid will join Bushnell as the judging troika of Made in the USA.
USA Network is cable television's leading provider of original series and feature movies, sports events, off-net television shows, and blockbuster theatrical films.
For more information, visit the USA Network Web site (www.usanetwork.com).


Global VR's MADDEN CHAMPIONSHIP Set To Kick Off August 5

64 Madden NFL Football fans are headed to the Alexis Park Hotel and Resort to tackle the opportunity of winning a portion of the $100,000 Prize Pool. The roster for the first $100,000 Madden Championship is complete and competition is set to begin August 5 at Las Vegas's Alexis Hotel and Resort. 64 players and 6 alternates will be arriving in the gaming capital of the world where they will find the stage set and their opponents ready to kick-off.
Festivities begin Friday afternoon when players will arrive and register for the weekend event. There will also be an opportunity for players to participate in a team match up Friday evening where a $1,000 prize will be awarded to the winning 2-player team.
Saturday morning, beginning promptly at 11:00, the double elimination qualifying rounds begin. Match-ups and cabinet numbers will be announced to the field by GLOBAL VR staff and players will take their stations. The play will continue until only 32 players remain standing. Those players will face off on Sunday morning where the big prize money winners will be determined. Sunday's match-up will be single elimination rounds and will continue until the Grand Prize winner is determined. The awards ceremony will immediately follow the last round of play and payout of all prize money and trophies will be completed.
The Grand Prize Winner of this event will walk away with a cool $15,000. All attendees, including alternates, are guaranteed a cash award.
For more information on this event, contact Global VR, (408)501-0000; Web (www.globalvr.com).


Families Bond Over Versatile Game Tables

María Cortés González El Paso Times
Jackie and Albert Alvarado don't have a formal dining table. Nor do they want or need one."We wanted our home to be a fun house. This is why we have this here," said Jackie Alvarado, while touching a dark wood pool table that sits in what could have been a dining area in their 2-year-old West Side home.A few more steps and the Alvarados have another attractive and popular focal point when entertaining -- a game table."I'm bad at pool, so I'll sit there and play solitaire," Alvarado said. "But pretty soon, people come over and we'll have a game going."More and more, families are spending their free time re-connecting over a fun game of cards, dominoes or maybe a more mentally intense game of chess."People are really trying to find ways to do things with their families and visit with their kids," said El Paso interior designer Anne Steele. "And game tables are a real nice way to do that."But don't think these homeowners are just taking out the portable folding table and flimsy chairs. Though built for fun, today's game tables -- whether in a family room or living area -- are stylish, versatile and often part of the permanent furniture display.Steele said she has seen an interest in homeowners setting up tables for card games such as poker or bridge."A lot of it is people whose kids have grown that want to put something in the back of a den or in a living room to play games," Steele said.But just as in picking out a nice sofa, homeowners can shop around for the perfect game table. Poker tables can start at $600. Other tables vary in price.At the Alvarado home, Steele helped incorporate a deep brown, round table with leather chairs, which have a rattan look, into the living room. The table and chairs are easily visible from the entryway."I like that when we don't use it for cards, it's still a very pretty table," Alvarado said. The table can be used as a dinner table and has a removable center leaf.Those who like playing chess might look for versatile game tables that offer more than one game, such as Chinese checkers or backgammon.And, like Westsider Becky Holmes, you might find the perfect chess table that is not only functional but adds a decorative touch to the room.At the Holmes' residence, a wooden chess table with collapsible sides blends in with the African theme of the trophy room. The table has African-animal-themed chess pieces.The sides can be pulled up for a game of cards and the center board can be flipped over for a game of Chinese checkers.In another sitting area, Holmes, who has a number of grandchildren, has a Lexington Co. game table that is ideal for children wanting to play board games or anyone wanting to spend a relaxing afternoon putting a puzzle together.When the grandchildren are visiting, "the table leaves come out and then you swivel it so you have the four sides," Holmes said. "It's a nice piece, because it's very easy to open for use."When not in use, the table sits prettily with a vase or another centerpiece. It also features decorative accents on each folded-in leaf.A renewed interest in poker, because of television shows featuring celebrity games, also might be a reason card tables are being built in fine wood.Shirley Scafuri of Ireland's Home Furnishings said poker tables are more sophisticated than in the past. The store has several types of game tables available through a catalog."They have felt on them and the grooves for the cups and chips," she said. "And they have reversible tops and wood pedestals. People are putting them in family rooms and great rooms and are setting up nice areas. They're nice pieces of furniture." To get your next Pool Table call The Game Gallery at 1-800-966-9873 or visit them at www.HomeGameRoom.com


Foosball Gains National Attention

Foosball Tournament
Mike Mueller

A Valley tournament is bringing a lot the table this weekend and one of those things is national attention.
Crews from ESPN were out in the heat Thursday morning setting up shop for Friday's show in Staunton. The network is profiling 50 states in 50 days and Virginia is next on the list.

The crew will go live from Staunton's Warf area in front of the Byer's Street Bistro. The local restaurant is hosting its 4th annual foosball tournament. The event, which will raise money for the Shenandoah Hospice, will be broadcasted live Friday night on network television


Blitz: The League Preview Midway's Blitz

The League is looking to show football fans the nitty gritty of the goings on both on and off the field.What's Hot:
The locker room. This is where it all goes down.Most times, what goes on off the football field is a lot more interesting than the action that takes place on it, and Midway is going to give us an up close look at the hard hitting action, the injuries, and the extracurricular shenanigans in its upcoming title, Blitz: The League. Free from the NFL's oppressive chains, the game's developers have decided to take the sport of football to an extreme level courtesy of Peter Egan, the writer of ESPN's show Playmakers. The game immerses you in the drama that occurs behind the scenes as well as on the sidelines, and when combined with the bone crushing arcade-style play that is this series' pedigree, what we're getting is one very intense football game where anything can and will happen. Clobber your opponents over the head with the ball, perform all sorts of arrogant end zone dances, and splinter bones with career ending hits. Just remember that you might be on the end of one of those crushing blows, and how you deal with it will either cement your legacy in The League, or put your busted carcass on the shelf. The battle for the championship begins Winter 2005.In-Depth Preview:As much as I love the NFL, it's quite a soft league. I'm not talking about the hits, because I can assure you that a shot from Michael Strahan would most certainly kill me, but I'm not a fan of the censorship and the odd rules. Players can't taunt fans, perform arrogant end zone celebrations (which I suppose equals taunting fans), and then there's that old chestnut the league likes to call pass interference. I mean seriously, what's up with that? Anyway, for years the NFL has been a nuisance (from where I stand) to Midway because of its Blitz franchise. Loved for the over the top hits and exaggerated rules, the series was toned down because the NFL disliked the violence. However, now that the league is sharing a glass of 400 million dollar lemonade with Electronic Arts, Midway has decided to take its series in a whole new direction. Thus, Blitz: The League was born, a hard-hitting and intense sports title that is a sweet marriage between the Blitz games of old and the standard game of football. Because EA gobbled up the NFL rights, all of Blitz's content is fictitious. This includes the league itself, the 18 teams, and all of its players, but the absence of the license doesn't hurt the game at all. In fact, all of this freedom is allowing Midway to really express itself creatively, and the result is an all new and original game that takes us out of the arenas andbeyond the line of scrimmage and into the huddles, the sidelines, the locker rooms.
It's nitty...but is it gritty?The developers' goal was to create the football game that the NFL doesn't want you to see, so instead of warm and fuzzy half time specials you're going to be watching some pretty dark stuff courtesy of writer Peter Egan, who penned the critically-acclaimed ESPN show, Playmakers. The result is a title that is more about life than just the game of football. You and I are going to be taken on a wild ride where anything can and will happen. We'll be trash talking on the field with other players, getting into altercations in bars, dealing with sneaky sports agents, scoring some drugs, and possibly going to jail. After all, scoring touch downs does not make a man. What he does with his life and the choices he makes does. The heart of Blitz is its Campaign mode, which is in a way comparable to a Season in another game except the road to this title's championship is actually a three tier tournament. You play as a team (the New York Nightmare, for example) that's coming off a horrible season, so there's a lot of work that needs to be done in order to put them on a winning path, and while the gameplay is reminiscent of its arcade-like predecessors, you'll be charged with making some very important decisions. For example, let's say you're playing a huge game. You've got to put this one away, but your QB's really injured. He can still go, but if he takes one more hit he could be out for the season. Should you shoot him up with pain killers and pray that he makes it through the fourth quarter, or do you bench him for the remainder of the game, allowing him to rest up so his body can recuperate in a couple of weeks? Not only are you playing with his life, but the team's future as well.I'd like to think that the odds are fairly good that he'll make it out of the game alive, but this isn't EA's Madden NFL. In Blitz, someone is going to bet busted on just about every play, so leaving him out there is almost like chucking raw meat at a bunch of wolves that haven't eaten for a week. He's going to get seriously $%$*&# up. Of course, this is what makes Blitz so much fun to play. The League's gameplay is sort of like an M&M. It's got a candy-coated exterior that represents some of football's more common rules, but its chocolaty center is all classic Blitz. It still takes thirty yards to get a first down, the action is sped up just a bit, and you can hit people after a play has ended. However, this version is a lot more violent because you're able to break bones and almost kill people. You can also "get in the zone", an altered state of being that allows you to evade the defense with style or annihilate the guy with the ball. It's actually this neat mini game where, after the feature has been activated and time has slowed down, you can pull off some fantastic moves by just randomly pressing a controller's face buttons. In a game like this, presentation is key and it appears that the developers have nailed it, starting with former NY Giants player Lawrence Taylor, who plays the role of Quentin Sands. Given the intensity he played with and the crazy hits he put on people, slapping him onto the game's cover was a smart decision.In addition to Taylor's likeness, Midway's done a nice job with the game's cheerleaders, which are supposedly "upgradeable" as a season progresses (so if you keep winning, you'll be able to get the best girls for the job). The company is actually using FHM models, and these beauties only add to the game's growing personality.While on the subject of upgrades, you can customize and enhance just about everything in this game, from your players to your stadiums. You can alter team logos, player names, tattoos, how they wear their jerseys (tucked or un-tucked), and what they wear on their heads. Then you can take this custom team and bring it online, where you'll be able to crush opposing players.There are also quite a few cut scenes, especially on the field, and these serve to add more emotion as well as potential consequence to upcoming plays. Most of them are just guys threatening other players, like the one where the defenseman is shouting at the QB. Unfortunately, in the few times that I've played the game the scenes kept repeating, so hopefully there will be a lot more in the final product.
The harsh realities of football are unleashed full force.Visually the game is 100% Blitz, because even with all of the new characters and cheerleaders there is no mistaking it for anything else. However, it just happens to be the prettiest and most detailed game in the series. Character models aren't blocky like they used to be, the stadiums look great, and some of the weather effects are quite impressive. Despite all of the Madden fans out there, I don't see EA's latest dominating the football scene. Blitz: The League is a totally different product that includes an interactive experience you cannot find anywhere else, so the masses are going to pick up Madden, but I also think many of them will want to check out Midway's product as well. Besides, while it's a bit more complex than previous games in the series, this title is all about arcade quality fun, which, in my opinion, tackles a dedicated sports sim any day of the week.


EA Has Dibs On Lord of the Rings Video Games

Electronic Arts announced today that it has won rights to develop Lord of the Rings games based on Tolkien's epic. Although EA already had rights to develop games based on Peter Jackson's translation in the form of the movie, now EA has been given permission to develop based on Tolkien's original works.
The company has announced two new games:1. A Middle-Earth sequel for the PC dubbed "The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-Earth II", and2. A Tactics game for the PSP handheld device, given the preliminary title of "The Lord of the Rings Tactics"


Bitter Games Rivalry Erupts Between France And England

By Aaron McKenna: Wednesday 27 July 2005, 10:09
AT THE upcoming Classic Gaming Expo-UK, gamers will be asked to sign a petition on Saturday, August 13th, during the course of the event. The event is described as a video game championship to "settle a 650-year-old rivalry", between London and Paris on 10 different games representing all eras of video game history, including maze games from the coin-op arcade era to modern console and PC titles. The event will be organized by the editorial staff of Twin Galaxies' Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records, the official record book for the worldwide electronic gaming industry.
Walter Day, editor of Twin Galaxies' book of world records will join CGEUK's Chris & Christine Milliard in leading a contingent of players over to France to issue the challenge. Day says: "The completed proclamation will be hand-delivered to Paris on August 15th - the Monday following the CGEUK - where it will be turned over to members of the French video game industry who will work on developing a French team to travel to next year's Classic Gaming Expo-UK (2006) where the 'London vs Paris' tournament will be conducted."
Also among the British entourage traveling to Paris will be Billy Mitchell, the American gamer who achieved history's first "perfect" game on Pac-Man and who was declared the "Player-of-the-Century" at the 1999 Tokyo Game Show. Mitchell, who is considered to be the world's most famous video game player, commissioned artists at his own expense to create the 8-foot vinyl proclamation and the logo artwork used for the challenge. Mitchell says: "I congratulate Chris and Christine Milliard for their bold creativity in using the CGEUK as a platform for initiating this positive interaction between France and England."
Twin Galaxies' Walter Day, based in Fairfield, Iowa, USA, notes: "It’s only fitting that we are delivering this proclamation on August 15th, Napoleon Bonaparte's 236th birthday. He liked challenges like this and he would have liked to have been here for this."
We don’t doubt it… here’s to settling some old rivalries through Pac Man.


Chuck E.'s Token Trouble

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible) July 27, 2005
Do investors smell a rat when it comes to CEC Entertainment's (NYSE: CEC) Chuck E. Cheese concept? A poorly received early-summer promotion found the country's leading entertainment-center chain coming up short in its June quarter and warning about expected weakness in its seasonally vital September quarter.
The company earned $14.4 million during the quarter, identical to year-ago numbers. Thanks to the company's aggressive share buyback policy, there were fewer shares outstanding this time around, which resulted in bottom-line improvement. Earnings per share rose from $0.37 to $0.40 a share. Still, that fell below the $0.44 per share that Wall Street was expecting.
The culprit was the flawed Super Chuck Summer promotion. Pitching a kid-sized pizza and eight tokens at $4.99, the company was hoping to add a new layer of attractiveness to last summer's well-received marketing effort that priced all of the arcade games for a token.
The campaign launched just as June was getting under way, and it proved to be horrendous. Less than 1% of the company's total sales came from the new kid-meal promotion. Because its marketing message was being ignored, same-store sales tanked last month after having previously held their own.
During last night's conference call, the company faulted its food-based marketing promotion. It pulled the campaign earlier this month and went back to a more traditional televised commercial that emphasized the fun and games available at your loud but local Chuck E. Cheese.
I'm sorry, but I don't think that's why the campaign failed. Sure, kids high-fiving Chuck E. and heaving a mean game of Skee-Ball or running around with a trail of redemption tickets in tow can be a cooler message than a pint-sized pizza. However, I believe the campaign was a colossal dud because the chain was sending an economical message to young kids who can't grasp the financial concept. The moment they arrive at this electronic playground, kids expect the parents to provide an infinite stream of tokens and grub. For the most part, they couldn't care less how the legal tender covers the experience.
Because the lack of a hearty summer promotion is carrying over to the current quarter -- traditionally the company's strongest -- the company is now expecting to earn between $2.24 and $2.31 per share for all of 2005. Wall Street had the company penciled in at $2.37.
Yes, it's a miss, but it will still represent CEC's tenth straight year of growing its earnings per share (EPS). That's not something to be taken lightly in what many see as a highly fickle sector. Chuck E. Cheese is five times larger than its nearest rival because it's hard to grow a kid-friendly entertainment center concept successfully. Just ask Discovery Zone, brought to you by the folks who cut their teeth anticipating consumer trends at Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI). Even Disney (NYSE: DIS), the company that knows all about kids, failed in its various family entertainment center ventures. On the grown-up side, Dave & Buster's (NYSE: DAB) has had more ups and downs than a mechanical bull.


TV-Like Ads In Video Games?

9:09 AM Anthony Wang Comment on this story
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Massive Inc. has been experimenting with advertisments that resemble TV commercials with full motion video and sound in a game called Anarchy Online. The way it works is that when a player moves near the advertisment, it will begin playing. However, the advertisment will stop when the player moves away.
Here is a glance at the article:
Massive's move comes less than a year after it created a stir in the videogame-advertising industry by offering advertisers the chance to insert still ads into videogames played on Internet-connected computers. Massive uses the Internet to insert ads into spaces in the games. The ads can also be changed and withdrawn whenever the advertisers want. The technique was a big step forward for videogame advertising, which previously was restricted to ads inserted into games while the games were made. Because games can take up to a couple of years to be designed, this required advertisers to put their ads into games well before the games' release.This evolution of advertising in games will surely change the way games are for better or worse. The plus is that game companies could have continuous revenue with these advertisments. Unfortunetly, this could also lead to in-game advertisments that could distract players and alter game design. Also, movie companies have shown interest in running short film trailers in online games.
The introduction of full-motion ads on games gives advertisers more options. Massive's Mr. Davis says Hollywood movie studios have shown particular interest in running 15-second movie trailers in online games. Mr. Rich says Paramount may be interested in such ads, but emphasized that the content of any such ads shouldn't turn off gamers.Expect to start seeing these advertisments in games more and more in the near future. Furthermore, the advertisments will most likely expand to the gaming consoles. To read the entire article, follow the link below.


Fun, Fun, Fun With MLB.com Arcade

'Playball' among hundreds of online games available
By Mark Newman / MLB.com

MLB.com ArcadePeople have been coming to MLB.com for a long time now and in ever-increasing numbers, and most everyone who has passed virtually through these walls has done so with one common pursuit in mind:
Whether your favorite Major League Baseball team is in first place or last place, let's face it: You probably are here because of the game. It's all about the game. It's all about play. Even if you are at work, you are probably here because of play.
Now there is something that takes the notion of playing another step further. The MLB.com Arcade has just opened. Online gamers now have a home on Major League Baseball's official site, too. It's time to play even more.
The appropriate name of the first baseball offering is MLB.com Playball. You can download the free trial version and get a feel for it, and then you can buy the full version for just $19.99 and suddenly realize what's most important in life: fun. And the first thing you will notice is that it is a lot of fun.
The kind of very addictive fun that makes you want to go out and play a simple game of pitch and catch, or go to your nearest ballpark and watch your favorite team take your emotions for a thrill ride. MLB.com Playball fits right in.
"MLB.com Playball is highly addictive," said Jamie Leece of Play at Joe's, the gaming company that has teamed up with MLB Advanced Media to create the game. "It combines all of the great elements of baseball in a fast-paced and exciting product."
MLB.com Playball is an objective-based Match 3 game with a twist. You can play at least 81 challenging game boards, all within a baseball theme in which you can choose your favorite team and reveal different player photos as you progress.
In this unique take on the classic-style matching game, you must rearrange baseball icons into sets, all the while scoring singles, doubles, triples, and home runs. Enjoy the sounds along the way, including the crack of the bat, the whiff of a strike and the roar of the crowd.
Each inning you complete leads you to a more challenging inning, with later levels having special "throwback" and "target" tiles. Play in either regular or time-attack game mode. Replay unlocked innings and games to improve your score.
Save your high scores by inning, game and season, and then compare them to other players online. You can even replay innings, games and seasons to improve your score.
If you are fast enough, Frenzy Mode will help you get lots of bonus points. Who in an arcade doesn't love bonus points?
Have you ever wondered why kids are always better than their parents at video games? If you are a parent who still can't maneuver your kid's hovercraft in Halo2, then you probably know more baseball than they do and here is a chance to even the score and get some payback at home.
And if you are a kid, here's another chance to deal on your parents, not to mention all of your friends. There are no prizes, but leaderboards will show users how they are doing compared to other users.
MLB.com Playball is one of hundreds of popular Internet gaming titles that can be found at the MLB.com Arcade, and most of them are try-and-buy like this one. There are literally thousands of hours of free gameplay availabe across more than 750 products, with new titles being added daily. All the online favorites are available, such as Scrabble, Zuma, Civilization and more.
Have fun. After all, it's why people come to MLB.com.


'Question Of The Week' Discusses Classic Arcade Games

The "Question Of The Week" feature, a specific industry-related question to be answered by professional game developers and Gamasutra readers, takes a light-hearted turn this week, discussing respondents' opinions of the all-time classic arcade games.The new question, which can be answered at the official Question Of The Week page until August 3rd, is: "Now that the Western market is largely finished producing video games specifically for arcades, what are your favorite arcade games of all time, and why?"As with the previous questions, the best responses will be compiled into an article to be published on the site, and users can either respond publically, with their name and company specifically cited, or anonymize their answers if they wish.
-Simon Carless


Games Bring Pinball's Glory Into The Home

LOU KESTEN Associated Press
One of the great tragedies of the video game era has been the slow demise of pinball. For those of us who grew up in arcades, pinball machines were part of a balanced gaming diet that also included air hockey, foosball, puck bowling and, yes, "Asteroids" and "Space Invaders."
The emergence of video games was a boon to arcades and led, in turn, to a creative renaissance in pinball. During the 1980s and '90s, designers created ever more elaborate and addictive tables based on Hollywood franchises like "The Addams Family" and "The Terminator."
But the increasing power of home game systems led to the demise of many an arcade. Why go out when you can play something just as good on your Xbox? And the expense of maintaining a pinball machine, with all its moving parts, doesn't make sense for a struggling arcade owner. Only one major pinball manufacturer (Stern Pinball of Illinois) remains, and while that company still makes terrific machines, good luck finding one.
At least some video game companies have fond memories of the glory days of pinball. They aren't entirely successful at recreating the excitement - a video game controller could never simulate the tactile sensations of frantically pounding the flippers or trying to nudge the ball back to safety with some aggressive body English. But they often add elements that wouldn't be possible in an old-fashioned pin, suspending the laws of physics or filling the playfield with animated targets. Video may have almost killed pinball, but now it's doing its part to keep it alive.
_"Flipnic Ultimate Pinball" (Capcom, for the PlayStation 2): "Flipnic" brings pinball into the 21st century with a collection of four impossibly inventive games. The gimmick here is that most of the tables have ramps that allow you to shoot the ball into a number of other tables, so you'll find yourself bouncing between as many as a dozen screens when the game gets really busy. Each level provides you with a set of challenges that you must overcome to access new levels, so there's always a clearly defined goal beyond simply racking up a high score. The challenges range from simple targets that need to be knocked down to bewildering three-dimensional mazes and "Arkanoid"-like paddle games. Like the best arcade pinball games, "Flipnic" looks easy but demands an unusual level of skill and concentration to really succeed.
_"Pac-Man Pinball Advance" (Namco, for the Game Boy Advance): We love "Pac-Man." We love pinball. A combination of the two should be doubly lovable, then, but "Pac-Man Pinball" dashes all our hopes. It takes advantage of the familiar "Pac-Man" ideas, requiring you to collect dots and then eat a power pellet before chasing after Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde. But it only offers two meager, uninspired tables, without any of the high-tech bells and whistles we've come to expect from a modern pinball game. Worse, the physics here are all off, and the movement of the ball feels sluggish and unrealistic. Later this year, Namco is taking another crack at "Pac-Man Pinball" for Nintendo's DS; let's hope it's livelier than this drab, uninspired effort.
_"Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection" (Crave, for the PS2, GameCube and Xbox): Gottlieb is one of the legendary names in pinball history. It introduced flippers to the game back in 1947 and continued to innovate all the way up to its demise in 1996. Gottlieb machines can still be found in out-of-the-way bars and arcades, but most of us who are nostalgic for its great old games will have to settle for the simulations in "Pinball Hall of Fame." It includes seven classic tables, from 1957's "Ace High" to 1993's "Tee'd Off." Hyperactive gamers will probably be puzzled by the laid-back vibe of 1966's "Central Park," but 1981's frenetic "Black Hole," in which the balls can escape to a minigame under the playfield, is a blast. "Hall of Fame" serves as an interactive history of a fading American art form, but even younger players who don't have a soft spot for these great old machines will have a ball.


Lawmakers Push For Tougher Rules On Video Games

State democrats begin a new push in an effort to keep the video game "Grand Theft Auto" out of the hands of young kids. The democrats are hoping to raise awareness about the violence and explicit scenes in this game.
They say they've tried to pass a number of bills that would restrict children's access to the game, but so far they say House republicans are blocking their efforts. They call it brutal and violent. They call it a teaching tool for hate, and they call it sexually explicit, so Senate democrats spoke out against the game, saying kids shouldn't be allowed to play it.
A recent sting showed that 40% of retailers in the state are selling the game to minors despite the mature rating. Senators say the voluntary rating system just isn't working. The State Senate's already passed a series of bills to address this problem. Senators say they'd like to see penalties for retailers who sell Grand Theft Auto.
Senate democrats say 4 different bills have passed the Senate that would limit children's access to the game, but so far none of those bills has gotten out of committee in the State House. Retailers say they wouldn't mind the additional restrictions on sales of the game. One video retailer says the State needs to do something to keep games like Grand Theft Auto of the hands of kids, but the retailer says parents will still buy the game for their kids, and this will only put a small dent in the number of children playing the game.
A spokesperson for House republicans says the House is actively working on child protection bills. They say they've already passed 1 measure that would restrict sexually-explicit video, and they say when they return to session, they will look at restricting violent games as well.


Blind Teen-Ager Is A Whiz At Video Games

LINCOLN, Neb. It's no exaggeration to say Brice Mellen of Nebraska is so good at video games, he can beat his opponents with his eyes closed.Like most 17-year-olds, Mellen loves playing video games. But unlike most gamers, he's been blind since birth.
Mellen says he taught himself to play by memorizing joystick operations, asking lots of questions and paying close attention to audio cues.
His father says his son wasn't very good at first, "but he just kept on trying."
Mellen worked his way up from "Space Invaders" and "Asteroid" to such modern combat games as "Mortal Kombat."
He humbly says he can be beat. But there was no evidence of that at a gaming center in Lincoln. One by one, he destroyed his opponents -- some of whom thought he would be an easy opponent because of his blindness.
Mellen says when he goes to college, he wants to study -- what else? -- video-game design.


There Are Good Video Games Out There For The Kids

Check the ratings and set rules; active games can animate the fun
Today has to be one of the hottest days this summer, and I can't imagine staying outside longer than the run to and from the car.
What are all those kids doing today?
On days like this, your children are probably camped out inside, and I don't blame them. Don't worry; I'm not going to beg you to unplug your TV and get them busy with other activities. I'm actually going to encourage you to get out the video gaming system -- yes, you heard me right.
Even with all the "Mature"-rated games out there, if you do a little work you can find a suitable game for your child that does not encourage violence and foul language.
When looking for a video game to rent or own, a parent should always look at the game rating, which is overseen by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Similar to movie ratings, these ratings range from "Early Childhood," which is acceptable for children age 3 and older, to "Adults Only." It is very important to know the description of the ratings so you know what you are buying.
Even after bringing the game home, you should monitor its use, especially when your child is playing with friends. Remember, just because you OK'd a "Teen"-rated game for your 11-year-old doesn't mean his friend's parents would approve. Make sure your child knows your rules on video games if he plans to play with other friends.
And what about the couch potato syndrome? They've even made games that get your kid up and moving.
I first learned about these physically active games when my husband brought home a skateboarding game that had a digital camera to hook into our gaming system.
No hand controllers needed here -- the digital camera locked on the player's face, and whoever was playing had to jump, dive, dip and swivel to make his onscreen character move. When I gave it a try, I started sweating before I finished the first round.
Many other types of games that encourage movement are available, including dancing and soccer. USA Today reported on a West Virginia study of the effects of a dancing video game on youth obesity. One success story included an 11-year-old who lost 10 pounds in two weeks by playing this game and eating healthily.
Since most of these active games are rated "Everyone," you will find that this is a valuable investment if it entertains your child and gets them active.
I am not suggesting you to let your gaming system "baby-sit" your child. But there are some good games out there that encourage movement and learning. Good luck on your search.


Blaming Video Games Is Taking The Easy Way Out

On Monday, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed into law a bill that makes it illegal for anyone in the state to sell or rent to anyone under the age of 18 video games containing graphic depictions of violence.At first blush, this sort of measure appears to protect the state's children, a noble effort.Games like "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" clearly are offensive, and any reasonable parent would not let his or her child play the game. On the other hand, we live in a society saturated with real-life violence, and that is a lot more difficult to stop.Rather than addressing actual criminal activity, legislators in Illinois have taken the easy way out and played the media blame game. They have adopted a feel-good approach that attacks fictional and fantasy images of violence in media products, instead of dealing with actual crime.The new Illinois law and a similar measure proposed last week at the federal level by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., amount to flawed attempts to create a false sense of security at the expense of the constitutional rights of the creators and users of video games.
What is even more troubling than lawmakers seeking headlines on a controversial issue is that they have enacted this measure against a backdrop of settled constitutional law invalidating similar bills elsewhere. Every law restricting violent video games has met with the same fate: struck down as unconstitutional by a federal court.As Chicago-based Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit the federal appellate court with jurisdiction in Illinois made clear in a case striking down an Indianapolis ordinance, the interactive nature of games does not make them any less deserving of First Amendment protection.All "literature (here broadly defined to include movies, television and other photographic media) is interactive; the better it is, the more interactive," Posner observed. Legislators know that they would face certain peril if they tried to ban books, movies or television programs, so instead they take on a new technology and try to convince their constituents that graphic depictions of violence in a interactive format somehow makes it more harmful to minors.But virtually all laws to restrict the First Amendment rights of citizens in this country must demonstrate that the government has a compelling interest that would be served by barring certain content. Provable harm to children would satisfy that burden, but no such evidence exists.That's one reason why measures like the one signed by Gov. Blagojevich have failed when challenged in court. Federal courts have adopted Judge Posner's reasoning in striking down similar laws in those jurisdictions. Gang members don't commit drive-by shootings because they played a video game, and school kids don't shoot others because they played a video game. Hundreds of thousands of kids play video games, and the overwhelming majority of them never assault or otherwise harm anyone.The problems of young people who do are extremely complex, and the politicians surely know this. Gov. Blagojevich and the Illinois legislature share the responsibility for enacting measures that violate the Constitution, but the citizens of Illinois will share the expense of defending these invalid measures as inevitable court challenges move forward.- St. Louis Post-Dispatch



Video Games Lack Woman's Touch

Stereo typical characters help manufacturers miss out on the female market
BY GREG SANDOVAL Associated Press
Tara Teich enjoys nothing more than slipping into the role of a female video game character. But the 26-year-old software programmer gets annoyed by the appearance of such digital alter egos as the busty tomb raider Lara Croft or the belly-baring Wu the Lotus Blossom of Jade Empire.
Don't even get her started on the thong-bikini babes that the male gunmen win as prizes in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which was sent to stores with hidden sex scenes left embedded on the discs by programmers.
Rockstar Games belatedly took responsibility for the scenes this week after the industry's ratings board re-rated the game ``Adults Only.''
''I wish they were wearing more clothes,'' says Teich, a lifelong game enthusiast who now helps create games. Why, she asks, must women in video games always look like Las Vegas showgirls?
Tammy Yap, a game programmer for six years, once asked that of a colleague -- after all, the skimpy clothing and exaggerated body parts might offend some women, she told him. His response: ``What difference does it make? Women don't play video games.''
The data on who plays games are actually quite consistent -- men account for 70 percent of the players of games written for consoles (such as Xbox and PlayStation2), says Schelley Olhava, an analyst with the research group IDC. ''Those numbers have changed little in the past seven years,'' she says.
Women could be a rich area for growth -- if the $10 billion video game industry figures out what games they want. But their point of view often goes unheard.
''There's no question that we need more diversity,'' says Justin Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association. ``We're saying that we need to grow the business and broaden the audience and yet the game creators are still mostly young white males.''
It's not just about good intentions.
The decision by the Entertainment Software Rating Board to require an ''Adults Only'' rating for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas could cost Take-Two Interactive Software, Rockstar's parent company, more than $50 million this quarter alone.
Controversy over the amount of sex and violence in video games has raged for years. With games rated ''M'' for mature proving to be reliable top sellers, the industry has become synonymous with blood-spattered shootouts and voluptuous vixens. This makes it difficult to attract female job candidates, insiders say.
While Olhava says 10 percent of all software engineers in the technology industry are women, that figure is just 4 percent in the video game field, according to Della Rocca.
''I've never worked with another woman programmer,'' says Yap, 28, who has been at three companies in six years. She likes her male co-workers at Midway Home Entertainment in San Diego, but ``sometimes it gets lonely.''
Video game companies may remain a man's world for years to come.
In May, the University of Derby in Great Britain launched a game-programming course with financial backing from Microsoft.
All 106 applicants were male. And at the University of Southern California's school of engineering, it's not unusual to see classes in video game programming without a single female student, says Anthony Borquez, director of education for USC's Integrated Media Systems Center.
''The perception is that video games are just shoot-em-ups with half-naked women running around,'' Borquez says. ``A lot of women think that there isn't much video game content for them.''
Marketing efforts by the software companies seem to reinforce that perception, Yap says.
''Game magazines have women wearing bikinis on the cover,'' she says. ``They are obviously targeting men. There's nothing wrong with that, but that approach isn't going to attract many women.''
Teich and Yap say the industry doesn't have to be so male oriented. They cite the success of The Sims, a nonviolent RPG, as proof that the women's market means big bucks.
Redwood City, Calif.-based Electronic Arts has sold more than 54 million units of the Sims, generating more than $1 billion in sales since it launched in 2000. It's the bestselling PC game of all time, and about 55 percent of the buyers were women, says EA spokeswoman Tammy Schachter.
She also notes that there were more women on the Sims' development team than on most of EA's games.
''We're definitely very motivated to find more ways to get women into the industry,'' Schachter says. ``This is part of a plan to build out the talent pipeline over the long term. This is not something we can solve overnight.''



Like Video Games? Uncle Sam Wants You

By Heather Newman Knight Ridder Newspapers
The game is war.
Whether that war is played out on the streets of Baghdad or on the screen of a video game is a line that is blurring more and more as popular video games are made from military training simulations.
In fact, the military is using video games to reach new recruits for real-life service, and soldiers are playing their favorite battle games in even the most remote outposts.
Take "America's Army," a hugely successful video game developed by the U.S. Army that has new console versions coming out this fall and a new PC version due in the winter. A cell phone version is expected next spring.
"It started as a means of communicating with the youth of America about the Army," says retired Maj. Chris Chambers, deputy director of the project. The Army knew it wanted to reach potential soldiers in as many ways as possible, he says.
So while the Army was developing "An Army of One" television ads, reaching out to surfers on the Internet and advertising with NASCAR, it also started putting together a video game with civilian developers hired in-house. It was a reaction to the explosive growth in both the Internet and gaming, he says - an online video game that pits player against player in a conflict that adheres to Army values.
"It made sense, more and more, to embed Army messages in those venues," Chambers says. "It became an overnight success."
The first version of the game was released July 4, 2002. There are more than 5.5 million registered users now, and about 100,000 more join every month.
But "America's Army" has proved just how powerful a team video games and the military can make. The Navy is releasing its own game later this summer, and others are expected to follow suit.
Although the Army doesn't track how many of its recruits are "America's Army" players, it does have a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest the game has been successful, Chambers says.
"We do know that our game is being consumed in huge numbers, and that means our message is getting out there."
Although the game is realistic in terms of the Army's "ethos - what makes us tick and why we do things," he says - it's far from a perfect replica of what being a soldier is like.
"We didn't want to educate youngsters or our foreign audience in something that could be used outside the game," he says.
The developers of "Full Spectrum Warrior" faced the opposite challenge: taking a video game that had been made as a brutally accurate military training exercise and turning it into a commercial success. It takes the player and puts him or her in the role of an Army squad leader tackling military missions.
The game began as a research project between the Army and the University of Southern California to create a virtual training program.
"The rationale was that video-game developers were much better suited to create the immersive virtual training simulations required in the 21st-century Army," says William Henry Stahl, project director for the game at Pandemic Studios. "The Army would control the content, while actual production would be handled by the developer."
Pandemic, which owned the technology used in the game, shopped it around to commercial publishers after it started attracting a lot of attention. Eventually, THQ picked it up, the developers retooled it for a commercial audience, and it became a strong seller. A sequel, "Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers," is in the works.
The Army had much less creative control over the retail version, but Pandemic still frequently asked for advice on the details, Stahl says.
"I do foresee more collaboration between the military and the private sector with regards to training simulations like 'FSW,' " he says. "The fact is that video game developers are much better suited to create the content - they have the infrastructure and the talent. For the military enthusiast, it gives them a much more accurate representation of what it is like to be in modern combat. For other gamers, it's an opportunity to experience a fresh take on an old video-game genre."


Ambushed On Donahue About Violent Video Games

Contributed by Mike on Tuesday, August 20th, 2002 @ 12:45AM
from the when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife? dept.
A somewhat fascinating read over at Salon by Henry Jenkins, the director of the comparative media studies program at MIT, and a well known writer/researcher/speaker on the video game industry and how it effects kids. It seems that the new Donahue show invited him on and proceeded to ambush him on the air by painting him as a moronic researcher safely in the pocket of the gaming industry who only wants to harm our children by forcing violent video games on them. Jenkins talks about what happened on the show (where they appear to ask him "when did you stop beating your wife?" type questions) as well as what he wishes he had said. While the ambush stuff is an interesting way to tell the story, the really good stuff is in his response to those who are complaining about children playing violent video games. The points he makes are intelligent and show someone who is really thinking about how to deal with a complex issue, rather than someone who is responding in a kneejerk fashion. It's too bad that we live in a kneejerk society that needs bumper sticker solutions instead of people who actually think


Video Games Benefits

(WTNH-July 21, 2005 2:15 PM)
by Dr. Mike Rosen
Many people will argue that video games are nothing but bad for kids. And no doubt, there’s a growing body of researching which points to the problems associated with video games. But are they all bad?
Kiera, who’s eight, and Imani, who’s 10, are two new friends forced together by less than desirable circumstances. They’re sharing some good times playing video games, which are helping them endure their stay in the hospital.
“It’s not bad but it helps you, it helps you to get better,” says Kiera.
Imani’s visit is hopefully the only one she’ll experience for a long time--she has a bad infection in her leg due to a mosquito bite. But Andrea has sickle cell, and is in a pain crisis right at this moment. “Sometimes I do stuff to make me forget about it, play with Kiera or play video games or games and watch TV.” Says Imani.
Video games are great for the control of pain especially in the hospital and emergency room setting that’s because the games require such a high degree of attention they actually distract the player away from the pain.
“It’s helping them feel like they are mastering their environment and so it’s increasing their self-esteem.” Ronie Gaboff is a child life specialist. “Very often you will have a child in isolation because of medical situation or maybe they are restricted to bed rest. It’s also giving them a sense of maybe moving, maybe when they are skiing down the road or doing the kind things that the treatment has interrupted in their lives.”
Video games are used in chemotherapy clinics, in physical and occupational therapy, and for kids not in the hospital, they help develop social skills, and special abilities.
Video games are also beneficial for autism and other learning disabilities.
Experts say, they won’t hurt and may help when used in moderation.
Dr. Rona Novick, a child psychologist at Schneider Children’s Hospital, says, “There’s a lot of research about some of the pluses of video games, like the eye-hand coordination, intellectual skills and cognitive skills that can develop on video games, but again it’s not only video games that can develop those skills, there are plenty of children who are developing them, building with Lego’s or doing other tasks.”
For Kiera and Andrea, they definitely help the healing process. But video games aren’t their first choice if they had it their way.
“I wish I was at home playing in the front yard and I wish there were no mosquitoes biting me,” shrugs Kiera.
Now we need to point out that, yes, there is the risk of addiction, aggressive behaviors, and several physical disabilities associated with overuse, including strain injuries to the hand and obesity.
But again, used in moderation, video games do have a role in helping kids grow, and even heal.


ESSAY- 25 to Life: Do Violent Video Games Incite Riots?

Published July 21, 2005, in issue 0429 of the Hook
"It's the worst in a series of violent and gruesome games that lower the common denominator of decency," thundered Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) the other day. Schumer is apoplectic over the new video game "25 to Life."
The senator wants retailers to refuse to sell it and Microsoft and Sony to cancel their licensing deals with British gaming publisher Eidos Interactive, which is issuing the game later this year. The Entertainment Software Rating Board has given "25 to Life" an M rating for mature players citing the game's blood, gore, drug references, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language. M-rated games are for players who are 17 years old or older.
Of course, this is far from the first time that politicians have denounced violent video games for corrupting the youth of America. Earlier this year, the Washington D.C. city council considered legislation that would impose fines of $10,000 on retailers that sell violent games to teenagers.
Politicians and parents evidently believe Plato's observation that "children cannot distinguish what is allegory and what isn't, and opinions formed at that age are usually difficult to eradicate or change; it is therefore of the utmost importance that the first stories they hear shall aim at producing the right moral effect." Or as Sen. Schumer pithily put it, "You certainly don't need a degree in criminal justice to understand that when you make sport of behavior that is dangerous and destructive you reinforce it."
Sen. Schumer and his fellow moral crusaders can point to recent research to back up their fears. In 2000, psychologists Craig Anderson and Karen Dill reported two studies of college students that found playing violent video games heightened aggression. In one study, the researchers surveyed 227 college students about their game playing habits and their aggressive behaviors. The study found that "students who reported playing more violent video games in junior and high school engaged in more aggressive behavior."
A second study involving 210 students allowed them to "punish" competitors with a loud blast of noise after completing a game. Players of violent games blasted their opponents with longer and louder blasts of noise.
And now researchers are probing the brains of gamers seeking the marks left by digital savagery on their gray matter. Last spring, German researcher Klaus Mathiak reported a study in which he used magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of 13 male players while they played a game in which they rescued hostages from terrorists. He found that as violence became imminent, emotional centers in their brains shut down, while their information processing frontal lobes became more active.
This pattern of brain activation and inactivation is also seen in the brains of people who are asked to imagine acts of aggression. Mathiak told New Scientist that he believes that playing video games is "training for the brain to react with this pattern."
Curiously, the frontal lobes are the seat of the executive functions of our brains. They are generally involved with foresight, planning, judgment, decision-making, and monitoring and managing social relations. This leads to the counterintuitive speculation that playing violent video games seems to stimulate cold calculation rather than inflamed tempers.
Given the fact that sales of video games have more than doubled since 1996, rising to $7.3 billion last year, one might think that brain-addled gamers would soon turn our city streets into firing zones. Not so.
First, keep in mind that video games featuring extreme violence are a relatively small part of the gaming market-- 83 percent of all video games are rated "E" for Everybody or "T" for Teens. Still, notoriously violent games such as "Halo 2," "Mortal Kombat," and the "Grand Theft Auto" series do sell well. But even as violent video games have proliferated, rates of violence have been ebbing in the United States.
As the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Crime Victimization Survey shows, violent crime has been declining since 1994, reaching the lowest level recorded in 2003. In another series of data based on crimes reported to the police, violent crime peaked in 1991 at 578 violent offenses per 100,000 people, falling to 475 per 100,000 in 2003, which is about the same level as in 1977.
Even fighting among teenagers is waning. The National Center for Education Statistics reports, "Between 1993 and 2003, the percentage of students who reported being in a fight anywhere declined-- from 42 percent in 1993 to 33 percent in 2003. Similarly, the percentages of students who reported fighting on school property in these years declined-- from 16 to 13 percent."
Of course, lone wackos with a tenuous grip on reality will doubtlessly be inspired by video mayhem to try their hands at the real thing from time to time. But if violent video games are producing hordes of kids desensitized to death and destruction, it is not at all evident in our crime statistics.
Schumer and other moral nannies may not be able to distinguish real from fantasy violence, but it seems that the vast majority of joystick jockeys do not have that difficulty. While it is certainly okay to criticize their taste in entertainment, there seems to be no compelling reason why gamers should not be left in peace to blast, bomb, and strafe as many pixels as they want.


Video Games Affect the Way Children Learn, but Moderation Can Make a Difference

By Andrew Dunn The Ledger LAKELAND --
Gamers are familiar creatures to many parents these days. Often nocturnal, you can usually find them by following their trails of potato chip bags or empty soda cans. Sometimes they travel in packs engaging in fierce duels of "fragging" or "trash-talking." The blisters on their thumbs are both a telltale sign and a badge of honor.But it's the communion these kids share with the TV screen or computer monitor that worries some parents. They can lose themselves in seedy underworlds of crime, play deadly cat-and-mouse games with well-armed opponents or just let their own blood lust run wild.Then again, there are many games that don't include sex, drugs or violence. And there are some video games that are even educational. So what's the net effect on children?"I think in moderation, they're probably OK," said Linda Troupe, director of student services for Polk schools. "But I think parents do need to be monitoring the selection of these video games."UNCERTAIN IMPACTPart of that monitoring includes checking what Entertainment Software Rating Board has to say about the game. Similar to movies, the ESRB gives a rating symbol to each game on the front of the box. The ratings, which range from "EC" for early childhood to "AO" for adults only, help parents determine whether the game is age appropriate.Arthur Raney, associate professor of communication at Florida State University, has written a chapter about video game effects on adolescents for the upcoming book "Playing Video Games: Motives, Responses, and Consequences." He doubts the usefulness of the current rating system."Parents tend not to use or rely on the rating system that is given to them," he said.He said the rating system is little more than an effort by the video game industry to prevent governmental oversight.Most video game retailers refuse to sell titles to underage children if the game is rated "M" for mature. But a rating doesn't stop kids from playing the game or parents from buying it for them.For instance, each of the last three Grand Theft Auto titles has sold millions of copies, and each was given an "M" rating. The game allows the player to assume the role of an urban criminal committing carjacking, prostitution and murder."What I found in my research is (Grand Theft Auto) tended to be the top-rated game for 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds," Raney said.Jeanne B. Funk, psychology professor and director of clinical training at the University of Toledo, has researched the effects of video games on about 330 school-age children through five studies.She said it's hard to say what direct impact violent video games have on children because it's unethical to subject children to the level of experimentation needed to find out. However, she said adults who played violent video games tended to display more aggressive behavior after playing them.She used surveys to find personality traits among school-age gamers."Kids with a preference for violent games show lower empathy and stronger pro-violence attitudes," she said. "They're more likely to say that violence is a good thing."Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. is the parent company of Rockstar Games, which makes the Grand Theft Auto series. According to the company, all that can be said for sure about its games is that they entertain people. And the company points out that a growing number of those people are adults, not children.Take-Two points to the rating system as a safeguard for parents worried about its games. And as such, the company sees its products no differently than movies.Raney, the Florida State professor, said the interactivity of a video game makes it a different beast than a movie. He cites everything from rumble packs in the joysticks to the creation of characters to total control of the storyline's outcome.He said long-term exposure to such interactivity has not been studied enough to say what effect it has on children.The Grand Theft Auto titles are not the first controversial video games. In 1982, game developer Mystique released "Custer's Revenge" for the Atari 2600. It was a pornographic game in which the General-Custer-based character bedded Native American women to score points.BRAIN DRAIN?Researchers have found that video games can affect other aspects of life negatively.Funk said playing more video games can lower academic achievement in some students.Raney said one aspect of gaming that concerns him as a parent is what he calls the "displacement effect.""If you're playing video games, you're not doing something else."He said that includes schoolwork, reading or just going outside and engaging in some good, old-fashioned physical activity.However, if video games are affecting children negatively, it's not enough for Valleyview Elementary's guidance counselor Michelle Allen to notice. "I haven't really seen any relationship between behavior and video games here," she said. "For the most part, our children are really well-behaved."And sex and violence aside, there can be positive aspects to gaming.Raney said video games allow children to practice future life skills such as money management, time management, delegation of responsibilities and teamwork.He said there is also a "social capital" aspect to video games. He said video games give kids something to talk about to make connections with other kids and helps them build friendships.As for educational games, he said there are benefits to be gleaned. But he said it takes an adult's guidance to ensure the game's lessons are being learned or reinforced. He said sometimes an adult is needed to make sure the child is actually using the educational side of the game."Many of the educational games have elements that are purely entertainment," he said.Allen said her school uses games in its computer labs to sharpen students' skills. She said the games provide a lot of "drill and practice," which helps to improve test scores.Funk said that video games are even changing the classroom."Teachers will tell you that their children have lower tolerances for slower paced learning that they're used to," she said. "And a lot of teachers attribute that to playing video games."So identifying the effects video games have on school-age children is difficult. The same is true for answering the simple question of whether video games are good or bad for children."My question in response would be, which ones?" Raney said.Troupe puts the joystick back in the parents' hands."I don't think video games are harmful," she said. "But I do think they need to be monitored and supervised by parents."


Taking Games Seriously

by Dennis Redmond
Why should self-identified progressives and activists care about videogames? After all, don't we have more important things to do -- like stopping the Terror War, organizing unions, and constructing Left parties? Aren't videogames just a frivolous luxury of First World consumers?
Not so. Adorno noted long ago that the line between progress and regress becomes blurred during periods of historical reaction. At such moments, what is truly progressive is scorned as obsolete, unrealistic, or foolishly utopian, while what is reactionary is praised as revolutionary, pragmatic, and state-of-the-art.
The videogame culture is a case in point. The Right has long castigated videogames as a mortal threat to public decency. All too many Leftists unthinkingly echo this critique, dismissing videogames as engines of militarism and xenophobia. Yet the videogame culture does not belong to military planners, Hollywood executives or elite programmers. It is a hugely diverse and dizzyingly complex field, where the burning issues of the multinational media culture, multinational ideology, the open
source software revolution, US neoliberalism, EU integration, and the East Asian developmental state all converge.
In just four decades, videogames have spread from minicomputers to arcade and computer platforms, home consoles, and latest of all, handhelds and cellphones. To give you an idea of the size of the game market, here are the numbers for the US market in 2003:
Mass Media Markets in the US
US Sales 2003
Videogames (hardware plus software)
$11.2 billion
Console software 58%, total hardware 31%, PC software 11%
Cinema (box office)
$10.1 billion
DVD and videotape sales
$22.5 billion
(64% sales, 36% rentals)
Total media
$43.8 billion
Data: NPD, ZenithOptimedia, Wedbush Morgan SecuritiesThe picture is similar in the other major media markets of the world, namely Europe and Japan. Most estimates peg total videogame software sales in Europe and Japan at $9.8 billion in 2004. Since software typically makes up 70% of all videogame-related sales, it's safe to assume that world videogame sales were at least $25 billion last year, and probably closer to $30 billion (the official totals don't include the booming online gaming market, or places like Russia, China, and South Korea, where statistics are difficult to come by).
Interestingly, one of the little-known reasons for the vibrancy of the videogame culture is its development model. High-quality games are not mass-produced by giant corporations. This has long been true of the cinema and other branches of the video culture -- no corporation could ever replace the creativity of a Hayao Miyazaki or an Abbas Kiarostami, for example. Though Sony and Microsoft studios do occasionally produce a hit game, almost all of the best videogames come from small specialty firms and quasi-independent producers. (Nintendo is a partial exception, but that's because the firm built its success around its software and the efforts of its legendary designer, Shigeru Miyamoto).
Nor are videogames a Japanese or US monopoly. Some of the finest videogames are being produced by Canadian, Croatian, Finnish, and Korean programmers and firms. Thanks to the Internet, the software tools and codes used to create games are accessible worldwide, resulting in an explosion of creative and non-commercial content from hobbyists, fans, and junior programmers.
The partisans of open source software have long argued that apparent hegemony of silicon capitalism conceals a remarkable amount of underlying cooperation and collective planning, a.k.a. nascent forms of information socialism. Videogames prove their point.
There are two reasons for this. First, the videogame culture has enduring links to the forces of multinational production (via the chip, software, and telecom industries) and has equally significant connections to the multinational relations of production (via the open source software revolution, the information commons, and the mass media).
Many of these issues were on prominent display at the May 2005 E3 convention (the Entertainment and Electronics Exposition, the videogame industry's annual trade fair). In addition to a slew of new games, Sony and Microsoft unveiled their next-generation game consoles, the the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, respectively. The PS3 was especially impressive -- the console is the product of a four-way partnership between Sony, Toshiba, IBM, and Nvidia. At its heart is a whole new line of microprocessors -- the Cell chip, which is essentially a massive parallel processor, designed specifically for multimedia processing. The PS3 will deliver two teraflops of computing power, roughly equal to the fastest supercomputer in existence in 1997. (The technical details of the PS3 are here.). All of this computing power will be able to run 3D games at high-definition digital resolutions, the equivalent of cinema-quality visuals on widescreen TV.Strange as it sounds, console videogames have their own version of the Five Year Plan -- five-year product cycles, during which a given console generation stays constant, but the software is gradually optimized for the console. Given the rapid changes in computer hardware, one might ask how consoles could possibly compete with the rapid advance of computer technology.
There are three reasons for this. First, computers have to be all things to all people, while consoles are designed solely for multimedia uses. While computer power roughly doubles every year, dedicated hardware can leapfrog over this rate. Second, all that computer power tends to be swallowed up by buggy software code and opaque operating systems -- a level of complexity which console systems can largely avoid. Third, consoles are designed to be sold at a loss. Sony and Microsoft don't make a dime of profit from the sale of their console systems; initial production costs are eventually recouped two or three years into the cycle. (The real profits lie in software, add-on merchandising and peripherals.)
To make a long story short, a $250 dollar stand-alone console which lasts five years will always offer more value than a $1000 computer which requires updating every three years, plus endless software and antivirus upgrades. This isn't to say that PC gaming will ever disappear. Though the personal computer has declined in importance as a vehicle for gaming -- PC game sales dropped from $1.8 billion in 2001 to $1.1 billion in 2004 -- the PC remains an indispensable development platform for the gaming community.
Put another way, console systems are more than just commodities, they also have some of the classic features of a public good. They are a key infrastructure of the information commons, which individual companies ignore at their peril. Historians will consider Microsoft's Xbox venture as the classic example of how the videogame culture ingeniously deflated the pretensions of the information rentiers. The original Xbox was technically superior to the Playstation 2, but Microsoft's legendary greed (essentially, Microsoft priced the console too high in the beginning, especially in Europe, and didn't want to pay top dollar to publishers, resulting in a lack of hit software) allowed Sony to dominate the console market.
This console cycle will be slightly different, because Microsoft has paid top dollar to a bevy of developers, programmers, and publishers, giving it a powerful line-up of titles -- a crude form of reparations, if you will, to the videogame culture. Microsoft will eventually make money in the videogame business, but it will never extend its PC monopoly into the console world.
There is a deeper lesson here. In an era when predatory neoliberalisms and monstrous petro-fundamentalisms are running amok in the world-system, it is crucial for the Left to wrest the concept of progress from the forces of Capital. Only by deciphering the new types of the multinational society emerging all around us -- new types of social and political movements, new economic formations, and new modes of aesthetic perception -- can we combat neoliberalism on its own global turf.


UN Uses Video Games to Educate Children About Aid Work

By Karie Atkinson Washington20 July 2005
Screenshot from Food Force video game A U.N. agency is taking advantage of children's love of video games to teach some important lessons about what it takes to combat hunger. U.N. officials say the online video game, devoid of violence, has attracted the attention of more than one million children around the world.
Dramatic techno music, the sound of helicopters circling overhead, talk of drought and civil war. Despite all that, this is not your typical violent and bloody video game.
Food Force, developed by the United Nations World Food Program, or WFP, educates children about the different steps involved in getting food to populations threatened by starvation.
The idea for the game came from a young former WFP aid worker, who has since died in a plane crash in Bosnia.
Jennifer Parmalee, a Washington-based spokesperson for the WFP, explains how the game evolved.
"The idea was really to get kids of the next generation involved in the issue of world hunger, and the whole idea was how to get them engaged in a way that is fun and interesting, and not too depressing," she said. "Because, of course, when you look at the broader issue of global hunger, it is indeed very grim, so this was how the idea was hatched."
Ms. Parmalee says the statistics behind global hunger are difficult for the developed world to comprehend.
"If you look at the U.S. where we are sitting, the picture of global hunger is grim. It's a problem. It's huge," she explained. "We estimate that more than 850 million people every day are chronically hungry. That means, they are struggling to get one meal a day. And this is a reality that people in the developed world really can't grasp. It's impossible to imagine the depth of hunger to which people are in. And 300 million of that number are kids. That's roughly approaching the population of the U.S., 300 million, and one kid every five seconds dies of hunger."
The video game is designed for children between the ages of eight and 13. It exposes them to the challenges aid workers actually face by presenting them with a series of missions explained by a team of WFP characters.
The players are thrown into a virtual world where they are asked to be part of a team of Food Force aid workers. Their mission: to feed the starving population of the fictitious drought-stricken, war-torn island of Sheylan in the Indian Ocean.
The six scenarios range from piloting helicopters to assessing how many people need food, to driving a food convoy and negotiating with armed rebels along the way. Players must also decide how much food is needed and how to provide it within an allotted budget.
Screenshot from Food Force video gameSteven Hansch, who teaches courses on humanitarian aid at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities, praises the game's ability to highlight the technical challenges that go along with aid work.
"Here's the message it conveys. It conveys the point that the challenge of giving aid is interesting, that the work of Americans doing aid work overseas is technically challenging," he said. "It's every bit as challenging as fighting a war. That's a point that is often missed. A lot of people, when they think of aid work, conjure in their head Mother Theresa, and, I think a lot of people find that romantic, but boring. They don't conceive of all the logistics and choices and complicated tradeoffs and planning that is required."
Each game has a time limit and players are rewarded for good decision-making and fast and accurate reactions. However, WFP's Jennifer Parmalee emphasizes that if children don't do well on a mission they can play it again for a better score.
"Educators have told us repeatedly that what they like about this game is that, if you don't do so well in distributing the food - these are aid workers who are struggling against civil war and natural disaster to deliver food - if you don't do so well the first time, people don't die in this game," she noted. "We didn't want to give kids that message. You get a chance to go back and do it all over again and improve your score. Educators like this, because kids do want a happy ending. They want to help, and they have a natural empathy, which is a good partner for this kind of game."
Since the WFP launched the video game at a book fair in Bologna, Italy, in April, the online game has attracted more than one million downloads from children in 40 countries across the world. Many educational Web sites have also linked to the game.
WFP is working with teachers in Washington, D.C. schools to integrate the video game and Web site with information and links to global hunger into their curriculums. The aid organization plans to work on a more sophisticated version of the game that will cater to college students.
It is currently only available in English, but translations in other languages will be available soon.


Sega Arcade Hardware Confirmed As Power VR-Based

Sega representatives have confirmed the that the company’s newest arcade board, named 'Lindbergh' and currently powering The House Of The Dead 4 in Japanese arcades, is not based on any specific next-generation console technology, but instead is powered by Imagination Technologies’ high-end PowerVR graphic processor.

Numerous Internet reports had suggested that the new technology was based on the Xbox 360 architecture, in the same manner that the existing 'Chihiro' system (used in Sega arcade games including Outrun 2, Ollie King, and Virtua Cop 3) is based on the original Xbox.

However, these rumors, now refuted by Sega representatives in a statement to UK-based consumer game site Eurogamer, always seemed at odds with Sega’s 'next generation' presentation behind closed doors at E3 in May, where the company showed real-time demonstrations of new iterations in The House of the Dead, Virtua Fighter, Afterburner and Sonic the Hedgehog franchises, and announced that the demonstrations were running on new arcade hardware, and not on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. These demonstrations were seen by many as a highlight of E3, with graphics at least on par with next-gen console prototypes thus far.

Beta versions of the Lindbergh-utilizing The House of the Dead 4 are already being tested in Japanese arcades, which should ensure a worldwide release of the title within a few months. Sega have thus far commented that they currently have no plans to release console ports of either The House of the Dead 4 or Virtua Fighter 5, both apparently debuting in arcades on Lindbergh, but the company has previously made similar claims about its arcade titles, only to release conversions at a later date – as was the case with OutRun 2 on the Xbox.


'Hardcore' Grandma Proves Old Age Doesn't Mean Game Over

07.19.2005 8:05 PM EDT
Barbara St. Hilaire
69-year-old defies gamer stereotypes while cursing up a storm.
She curses at the TV when "Prince of Persia" gets tough. She's broken her video game controllers. And she's conquered "Resident Evil 4" enough times to earn a rocket launcher with unlimited ammo. Barbara St. Hilaire is a typical hardcore gamer, but
if with one key difference: she's a grandmother.When people talk about the PlayStation generation, they're not referring to people who collect Social Security. But a couple of older gamers, Barbara St. Hilaire, 69, and Doris Self, 79, are making their mark in the gaming world and aren't letting old age stand in their way."I don't see what the big fuss is," St. Hilaire said from her home in Cleveland. "This is just me."Check these gaming credentials: From the comfort of her recliner, St. Hilaire reads Game Informer and Electronic Gaming Monthly. Her Internet bookmarks — all two of them — include gamefaqs.com. She loves "Final Fantasy VII" and "VIII" and thought "Parasite Eve" was "fabulous" but felt "Silent Hill 4" was redundant ("I couldn't get into it"). She's owned a pile of systems, from Atari 2600 and Genesis to PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube.She's even dabbled in "Grand Theft Auto." "I tried some and I find it's relaxing," she said. "I can take out my frustrations on the TV."St. Hilaire may not think any of that is out of the ordinary, but her grandson Timothy, 22, does. He's grown up with a gaming grandma, playing Luigi to her Mario on the classic Nintendo console, and he's regularly seen the shock of friends who discover just who is the supreme gamer in his house. Last month, on the suggestion of his friends, he started to blog about it. Grandma's now a budding Internet celebrity."Old Grandma Hardcore" chronicles Barbara's profane exploits to conquer today's hottest games. Timothy said Barbara says "Aw, piss" a lot, and according to his blog, she gets a lot saltier. Like many serious gamers, she's known to give the character she's controlling a piece of her mind when the going gets tough — "Run up the wall! Run up the goddamned wall!" — offer her own commentary on the game's development — "This game needs a f---ing map" — and calmly assess the game's difficulty — "You've got to be sh---ing me." Could there be any doubt that Grandma is hardcore?"People said I was faking it," Timothy said. "There is no way a 70-year-old woman says these things and plays these games." It's not just that. It's hard to reconcile the typical image of a little old lady who knits or watches soaps with one who, Tim said, "almost bought one of those chairs that had speakers built in and vibrated with the controller."To prove Grandma was real to his Web readers, Timothy posted movies of her in action on his site. But even just a conversation with Barbara St. Hilaire proves her credentials pretty well. She speaks like a true gamer: "Basically if I can't sleep at night, I'll get up and play video games," she said. "If I'm interested in a game, I'll start playing after dinner and play until 5 or 6 in the morning."Research cited by the Entertainment Software Association, the gaming industry's main trade organization, claims that 19 percent of computer and console gamers are over the age of 50, but a visit to your local gaming store or a flip through a gaming magazine doesn't suggest that a lot of senior citizens are lining up to play "Halo" or "World of Warcraft."One senior citizen who isn't interested in today's video games is Doris Self, 79, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. "The games now where you're killing this one or killing that one, it's a turnoff to me," she said. That's why Doris sticks to the 1982 arcade game "Q*bert" and will be heading to London in August to challenge for the world record in that game. Doris Self is another senior gamer not to be trifled with.In 1984 she set the world "Q*bert" record with a score of 1,112,300 points. In the process, she laid claim at the age of 58 as the world's oldest video game champion.Back then it was unusual even for a woman in her 50s to be seen in the Florida arcades. "I didn't like going in the daytime because there were too many kids," she said. She'd hit the 24-hour arcade at midnight and wouldn't come home until dawn, about the time her daughter would be heading out to work. "She looked at me like 'You're crazy,' " Self said.A year after setting her records, Self drifted away from video games. She had befriended at least one of her arcade's regulars — teenager Billy Mitchell, who was making headlines for his mastery of "Pac-Man" — but friends her own age were more interested in bridge.By 1999 Self hadn't touched a "Q*bert" machine in five years. Her "Q*Bert" record had been topped, and a 72-year-old was now considered the oldest person to set a gaming record. That's when Mitchell called and convinced Self to let him deliver a stand-up "Q*bert" machine to her house on the condition that she would train to reclaim her records. Within a half-hour, she'd rediscovered her dormant skills.Now she's playing two or three days a week, earning enough free lives to reach 3 million points with ease. "My bridge partners always thought I was nutty," she said. She hasn't convinced them to start playing video games.In June she made a run at the world record, which requires breaking 1.8 million points on a five-lives limit. She fell short. London, where she'll be heading with Mitchell, will be the next attempt.As the body ages, gaming isn't quite as easy as it used to be. Self used to play her "Q*Bert" games standing up. Now she keeps a bar stool handy, though she said her hands work well enough for her to use all her old techniques.In Cleveland, St. Hilaire said she's developed carpal tunnel syndrome and doesn't feel that her reflexes are sharp enough to enjoy playing hair-trigger first-person shooters such as "Halo" and have kept her from pursuing online gaming. "Most of your readers are younger people," she said. "Tell them to enjoy it while you can, because as you get older your reflexes stink."Both women said they don't know anyone else their age who avidly plays games, but they both recommend it. So will the world soon face a wave of senior citizens who can game with the best of them? Timothy St. Hilaire said his blog about Old Grandma Hardcore has garnered international response and some evidence that there may be other seniors out there who could benefit from the medium. "I get many e-mails from Japanese readers whose own grandparents are addicted to pachinko gambling," Timothy said. "Many write that they are going to try to get their grandparents console systems as a substitute, and they use Grandma as an example."For her part, Old Grandma Hardcore doesn't want to be known as an exception. She just wants an Xbox 360, a PS3 and a trip to L.A. for the annual Electronics Entertainment Expo, the annual trade show that showcases the year's hottest games. "Grandma's dream, while it may not be a big deal to some, even in the gaming world, is to go to E3," her grandson said. "If the site can do that, rock on." — Stephen Totilo


475 Attend the Game Initiative's First Annual Casual Games Conference

Developers, Publishers and Distributors of Web and Downloadable Games Converge on Seattle
Seattle - SEATTLE -- Casual Games Conference The Game Initiative, a leading producer of conferences and events for professionals in the computer and video game industry, today announced that more than 475 video game industry executives are participating in the first annual Casual Games Conference taking place July 19-20, 2005 in Seattle, Washington. "We are extremely pleased with the turn out for the first annual Casual Games Conference," said Christopher Sherman, Executive Director of The Game Initiative. "Attendees include executives from game companies as far away as the United Kingdom, India, Norway, Korea, China and Australia." The Casual Games Conference provides insights to the business opportunities and design considerations required for developers, publishers and distributors to succeed in the rapidly-expanding game industry segment of web games and downloadable games. The official web site for the conference is http://www.CasualGamesConference.com The Casual Games Conference is sponsored by industry leaders Microsoft Casual Games Group, Real Networks, Nokia, Sandlot Games, Game Trust, shockwave.com, Game Instinct and DigiPen. Media partners include Moby Games, GameDev.net, Gamesindustry.biz and Business Wire. Game Initiative 2005 events include: Casual Games Conference, July 19-20, 2005, Seattle Advertising In Games West, July 28, 2005, San Francisco Women's Game Conference, Oct. 26-27, 2005, Austin, TX Game Writers Conference, Oct. 26-27, 2005, Austin, TX Austin Game Conference, Oct. 27-28, 2005, Austin, TX Mobile Game Conference, Oct. 27-28, 2005, Austin, TX European Advertising in Games, Nov 2005, London Advertising In Games Forum, April 2006, New York Break into the Game Industry - a National conference series The Game Initiative is chartered with the growth of the industry through events, public awareness, information and supporting programs and serves the needs of companies and people involved in producing interactive entertainment software and hardware for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers and the Internet. More information about the Game Initiative can be found at http://www.GameConferences.com


Jack Thompson’s Views On Video Games

Posted Jul 19, 2005, 10:35 AM ET by Conrad Quilty-HarperRelated entries: Culture, Online

If you’ve ever wondered what motivates Jack Thompson, the self proclaimed anti-violent games attorney, you should have a look at his website stopkill.com. By having such an emotive domain name Jack forces you to stop and think about what you are doing to stop kill[ing]. Then Jack generously offers his services as a TV personality slash attorney to anyone with a story of video games causing violence in the real world.
Naturally Jack understands that anyone who has personally experienced video games manifest themselves in real life will want something to blame. So he has some dodgy rundowns of the features of Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto, Doom and “Sniper and God-Modes” to this effect. How do these games link in to violence in teenagers? Thankfully Jack tells us about some “brain scan studies” that proves that brain functions are damaged by a steady diet of violent games. Then he goes on to conclude that video games are “murder simulations”. Oh and thanks for the link to the study Jack!Towards the end of his website Jack gets a little too philosophical for his own good. Apparently he’s trying to “protect our freedoms”, obviously through appearing on TV hundreds of times. I’d love to see evidence that Jack is trying to push the video games industry towards a less sensational focus on violence, but quite frankly I see no evidence that Jack has done anything to help other than “predict” that some teenage killers played video games. Neither is there any advice on ratings systems for games, links to violent gaming studies, comparisons to other forms of violent media or any previous experience with violent gaming court cases. At least he gives some very valuable advice for gun owning families; “If you have kids, have them start shooting hoops instead of humans.” I’m assuming this means shooting humans in games, but I guess it’s helpful if your kid ever picks up a gun. Just make sure to remind little johnny not to shoot humans before you give him a gun.


Midway Arcade Treasures 2

Best Classic Arcade Game Collection Ever!
By fatalbert18
This Review's Trust Rating: Unrated
July 19, 2005 - In midway arcade treasures 2, you can play classic arcade games from Midway and they are surprisingly good! They are a lot better than the Atari Antholigy and thee crappiest classic games known as Sega Classics. And this collection is Mature rated. The best games in the entire collection are Mortal Kombat 2 and 3, Spy hunter 2, Hard Drivin', Total Carnage, Narc, Primal Rage, Wizard of Wor, Gauntlet 2 for you nerds, Xybots, Xenophobe, and Rampage. All of those are fun. Plus it has DVD content so you can see the launch trailer for at least every game including MK2 and 3. Plus you get this at a price we can all afford! Yep. you heard me! Budget and man is it worth every penny. If you miss classic games like these, i recommend you pick this one up.

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