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Two creative pinball stories

Pinball is alive and well and more creative than ever! A father and son team of Gerrit Bonsveld and Martjin Boogaarts recently used LEGO bricks to create the world's first working LEGO pinball machine.
Gerrit and Martjin said to the Lugnet Robotics List, "The pinball machine contains 20,000 plus LEGO bricks and 13 RCX units that communicate using two communication chambers, each with a separate program. It took over 300 hours to build and the game runs on NQC software and is all LEGOS, except for the ball."
To view a picture of the LEGO pinball machine, visit (www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?i=1447916).
Pinball enters the human body in Gas Attack!, most recently exhibited at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Ga. The goal of Gas Attack! is to collect points by bouncing off bumpers dressed up as food that is known to cause gas. The Gas Attack! pinball machine is a part of the "Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body" exhibit, which is currently on tour throughout the United States and Canada.
The "Grossology" tour is presently at the Denver Museum of Science (Denver, CO) from October 7 to January 1, 2006. It will then travel to the Calgary Science Center (Calgary, Alberta Canada) from January 21, 2006 to April 30, 2006; Science North (Sudbury, Ontario Canada) from March 4, 2006 to September 3, 2006; Echo at Leahy Center (Burlington, Vermont) from May 26, 2006 to September 4, 2006; Strong Museum (Rochester, NY) from September 30 to January 1, 2007; Pacific Science Center (Seattle, Washington) from January 27, 2006 to May 6, 2007; and the Museum of Science and Industry (Tampa, FLA) from May 26, 2007 to September 4, 2007.
To view a picture of the Gas Attack! pinball machine, visit (www.fernbank.edu/museum/grossology/aboutInsidepopup.aspx?ID=101).
For more information about the "Grossology" tour, visit (www.grossologytour.com/grossology.swf).



Sex is here to stay in video games

But industry is trying to figure out how to deal with it.

By Renuka Rayasam
Thursday, October 27, 2005
With the commotion over illicit content in video games still simmering, about 150 members of the game industry talked sex Wednesday evening at the Women's Game Conference in Austin.
Sex is not new to video games, but it remains taboo when compared with other entertainment, said Brenda Brathwaite, lead designer of "Playboy: The Mansion" for Cyberlore Studios. The Women's Game Conference is part of the Austin Game Conference, which attracts about 2,000 people from the industry to Austin. The Austin Game Conference runs through Friday at the Austin Convention Center.
Earlier this year, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., called for an investigation into the gaming industry after an explicit but hidden sex scene was discovered in "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" that developers said was not meant to be seen. Programmers posted software on the Internet to make the content widely available, resulting in the game's developer, Rockstar Games, pulling it from shelves and releasing a new version.
Brathwaite compared the controversy to similar panics in the 1930s in the film industry and with comic books in the 1950s.
As a relatively new industry, video games still are viewed with suspicion by regulators and parents, she said. And as sex in games become more pervasive, the industry will continue to attract attention.
Even if developers don't intend for a game to have sexual content, as an interactive medium, gamers can turn any game into a sex game, she said.
"As long as you have two (characters) on screen and a chat room, you will have sex in games," she said.
Brathwaite said studios should accurately disclose game content to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the industry's self-regulated group that decides game ratings. But retailers should not sell games labeled adult-only to minors, and parents should monitor children's behavior, she said.
"There's a huge, gaping hole where responsibility should be," Brathwaite said.
Sex has been a part of the industry since its early days. Suggestive messages were a common part of the 1981 text-only PC game called "Softporn Adventure" in which players attempted to seduce women.
With improved graphics and the player interaction during online games, sexual content saturated the industry.
After the release of "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" in 1996, the goal of developers became "How hot can you make the girl?" Brathwaite said.
Women in skimpy outfits also are a fixture at game industry trade shows often used to sell new games.
Today sexual content in video games ranges from educational, such as games that teach kids about sexually transmitted diseases, to the extremely lewd. But much of the content falls in between.
"The Sims" — in which players simulate real experiences, such as meeting mates, falling in love and having kids — is the No. 1-selling game among women. And there are several other online games in development that focus purely on relationships. The challenge for developers is to create games that emphasize relationships rather than visuals.
"We're not close to the front line of story telling," Brathwaite said. "We haven't told our version of 'The Graduate' or 'Sideways' yet."


Poker's Biggest Names Gather at the Golden Nugget for Two Televised Events

Friday October 28, 1:33 pm ET
Cameras Set to Roll on GSN and FOX SPORTS Series in November
LAS VEGAS, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Television's hottest game returns to the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for two made-for-television poker games featuring some of the biggest names in poker.
The two televised events -- HIGH STAKES POKER, produced for GSN, and POKER SUPERSTARS III, produced for Fox Sports Net (FSN) -- mark the return of televised gaming to the legendary downtown resort. Earlier this year, the Golden Nugget was home to the WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK, which aired on GSN, Speed Channel's Mobil High Endurance Charity Poker Challenge and NBC's NATIONAL HEADS-UP POKER CHAMPIONSHIP, which garnered solid ratings.
"The Golden Nugget is the birthplace of poker in Las Vegas," said Dan Shumny, vice president of marketing for the Golden Nugget. "We are pleased to host these popular televised poker games, and to be a part of the poker phenomenon."
GSN, The Network for Games, is launching its new series, HIGH STAKES POKER in January 2006. The series will unite some of the top professional poker players with elite poker-playing business executives in an exciting match of skill and money. Also known as a "cash game," each player will ante up $100,000 of his/her own money. The stakes are high, as a player can lose several thousands of his/her own money, making the series one of the most exciting poker shows ever to air.
Among the poker aces scheduled to appear are Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Jennifer Harmon, Barry Greenstein and Phil Hellmuth, among other high-profile players.
The series will be filmed in its entirety at the Golden Nugget, Nov. 2-4. Tapings will be closed to the public. The Golden Nugget also served as the location for GSN's 2005 series, WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK, a head-to-head match up of professional and amateur blackjack players.
HIGH STAKES POKER will premiere on GSN Monday, January 16, 2006, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).
Fox Sports Net (FSN) brings the third season of its popular series POKER SUPERSTARS to the Golden Nugget, November 9-16. The 36-episode series, produced by Henry Orenstein, will feature 24 of the world's greatest poker players, including poker luminaries such as Johnny Chan, Chris Ferguson, Todd Brunson, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth and Chris Moneymaker.
POKER SUPERSTARS III is the latest in poker programming on FSN -- the only US network to air live poker tournaments -- and joins the network's successful line-up of poker series, such as LEARN FROM THE PROS, MONTE CARLO MILLIONS, AUSSIE MILLIONS and the highly rated POKER SUPERSTARS INTERNATIONAL.
The show tapings, scheduled for November 9-16 at the Golden Nugget, will be closed to the public. POKER SUPERSTARS will air on Fox Sports Net beginning March 12, 2006. Check local listings for air times.
About Golden Nugget Las Vegas
Winner of the AAA Four-Diamond Award since 1977, the Golden Nugget Las Vegas is the most luxurious resort in downtown Las Vegas, and consistently receives critical acclaim for exceeding customer expectations. The Golden Nugget offers 1,907 deluxe guest rooms and suites, 38,000 square-feet of casino space featuring the most popular slot and video poker machines, table games, a race and sports book and poker room, nightly entertainment, world-class restaurants, spa and salon, and year-round outdoor swimming pool. In September 2005, Landry's Restaurants, Inc. purchased the nearly 60-year-old hotel-casino. Currently, the Golden Nugget is undergoing a two-year renovation. Hotel reservations and additional information are currently available by calling 800-634-3454, or book on-line on the website, www.goldennugget.com.


Florida aims to curb violent video games

[ Friday, October 28, 2005 11:13:07 pmREUTERS ]
SAN FRANCISCO: A Florida state senator has introduced a bill that would ban the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, an aide to the lawmaker said on Thursday. Introduced on October 25 by state Senetor Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a Republican from Miami, the bill is a near clone of legislation recently signed into law by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who is portrayed in several video games based on his action film roles. Bills aimed at restricting sales of violent games to minors are the latest salvo in a long campaign by detractors and some parent groups to limit access to games with adult content. Critics cite research suggesting that violent games can increase aggressive behavior in young boys. Game makers and retailers counter that video games carry ratings similar to those found on films, and many store clerks ask for identification from young gamers to make sure they are not buying titles aimed at older audiences. The battle over controversial video game content flared anew this summer when game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software Inc pulled its blockbuster title 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' from store shelves following the discovery of hidden sex scenes in its code. Trade groups representing the $10 billion US video game industry have sued to strike down the new California law and are fighting similar battles in Michigan and Illinois. Courts already have blocked such legislation in Washington State, the city of Indianapolis and St. Louis County in Missouri.


Game rooms add fun, value to houses

Many homeowners see investment potential in turning their dens into play pens.
By Kay Bell
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Not so long ago, we were happy to while away hours playing ping-pong or shooting pool in an unfinished basement or partially cleared garage. That was before HDTV, video games and Texas Hold 'Em.
To meet today's leisure needs, many homeowners are adding or converting existing space into a game room. Spend a weekend touring new developments, and in almost every model home you'll find a bonus or game room.
But you don't have to buy new to get a great game room.
Brochures for resale properties tempt buyers with details on the extra room where you can enjoy all types of entertainment.
"People's time is just too tight," says Robert Ernst, vice president of FBN Construction Co. in Boston. "They find the rooms offer a great space where you can have your friends over, have fun and not feel like they're abandoning the family."
That's not the only reason that additions are popular. Just as important is the value that remodeling can add.
"With home values going up, people feel it is a better investment to have their money in their homes than in the stock market," Ernst says.
The appeal of residential game rooms isn't anything new for Bob Jones Jr., president of American Sale, a recreational furnishings business with eight locations in the Chicago area.
"Actually I would say that it was probably in the late '80s when we really started to see the trend towards creating a game room in people's homes," Jones says.
One thing, however, has changed. In the mid-1980s, Jones says customers primarily were looking for billiards tables to anchor their game rooms.
Games for today's rooms have evolved into a more-commercial type of arcade entertainment. Then there's the popularity of poker, which has prompted some homeowners to want a Las Vegas feel in their game rooms.
Planning your game room is key, says Tim Carter, creator of the Ask the Builder Web site.
The biggest mistake, Carter says, is that homeowners try to turn a too-small area into a game room. He suggests mapping out the game tables and other items you want in the room and then making sure there's plenty of clearance on all sides.
Then there are plumbing, lighting and other electrical needs.
Some who remodel install plumbing in the new game room for a more convenient powder room or wet bar.
Also consider the effect of lighting. It's natural to want to focus fixtures on a main game, be it a pool table or your weekly poker setup. But you don't want lighting that produces glare problems for players of other games, Carter says.
That connects back to the room's electrical needs.
Electric games use a significant amount of current, "and in the average room, it might not be sufficient," Carter says. "For old-fashioned arcade games, the total amperage draws are huge."


Scare season Video games put players inside slasher flicks

Ric Manning
By Ric Manningricman@courier-journal.com SCENE Gizmo Editor
It's the time of the year when kids and adults line up to visit haunted houses and watch slasher movies and pay good money to get scared out of their wits.
There are plenty of Stephen King novels at the bookstores and John Carpenter films at the video stores. But some of today's most-frightening stories are played out on computer and video games.
If Halloween weekend is putting you in the mood for a good fright, then turn off the lights, turn up the sound and boot up one of these games. 'Silent Hill 2'
PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC, from Konami.
There are four versions of the "Silent Hill" series, and each one challenges you to stay alive as you roam through a creepy, horrific environment while you solve puzzles and try to avoid becoming a snack for some gargoyle.

The most-recent versions cast you as a young girl in a deserted shopping mall ("SH3") or as young man trapped in his room ("SH4"). But many fans of the series say the first versions are still the best.
In "Silent Hill 2," you play a man who has been called back to the town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his wife, who happens to have died three years ago. The town, of course, is shrouded in a dense fog and appears to have been abandoned, at least by normal human beings. In their place are mutant creatures and an occasional zombie who needs a good whack in the head. 'Clock Tower 3'
PlayStation 2, from Capcom.
The "Clock Tower" games are a lot like the old teen slasher movies where the star has to defeat a crazed killer using only household items. In this version, a girl named Alyssa finds her home deserted. She soon becomes the target of a series of killers who chase her through supernatural dimensions.
To find the leader of the killers, Alyssa must outwit and defeat a series of nasty characters, including one who uses sledgehammers on his victims and a ballerina who likes to slice up people when she executes a twirl. The environments include a concert hall, a maze of sewers and a graveyard, all well-drawn and suitably creepy. And the game's soundtrack is just as scary as its visuals. 'F.E.A.R.'
PC, from Vivendi Universal.
The best first-person shooters, like "Doom" and "Half-Life," can jump-start your adrenalin pump even though you're in control of the situation. You're well-armed with high-tech weapons and you know there's a baddie waiting for you behind the next closed door. But you still jump out of your skin when he attacks.
"F.E.A.R." presents a familiar story line -- you're part of an elite military crew sent to investigate a paranormal situation. What you find is a crazed commander in charge of an army of clone soldiers.
The game uses the same technology as "Half-Life" and "Doom," so it has the same fluid animation and realistic graphics that put you in the middle of a big-budget action movie. 'Resident Evil 4'
Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2, from Capcom.
This game has all the elements you'd want for a great scarefest. You start out in a mountain forest on a cloudy day. As night falls and a storm moves in, you stumble onto a town full of dilapidated buildings. There's an old church on a hill that you have to explore, and, yes, the church has a graveyard.
Sure enough, the town turns out to be populated by people who are not likely to invite you in for ham hocks. While they're not exactly zombies, they're not exactly right, either. The game plays out over a large and impressive environment that includes a castle, an old factory and even a ski lift.


Video Game Strategies

Mastering the more advanced plays in football video games.
In Football Video Games 101 the basic tips were written to help those new to Football video games enjoy the experience more. It also had a few helpful tips even for the more experienced players to learn a few things they may not have known. This is a follow-up to Football 101 and if you have tried the tips in 101 with success, then you will get more out of Football 201. While the numbers may make it sound like college courses in the sport, it really is more of a way to help readers know which one they need to start with.
The following tips are more advanced and are meant to be used for online or offline play. These football tips and strategies will work but will also require practice. If you expect to read over this once and be able to pull all of the moves off perfectly, then you may be in for a long session. In time you will find the following tips and strategies will improve your game. The strategies outlined here will work with Madden 06 , NCAA and the 2K series of football games. Of course a few of the tips will need to be adjusted based on the game you’re playing. If you are simply looking for cheat codes then refer to the Top Football Games article for Madden and NCAA, and find 2K within the cheat areas.
Football Passing – Pro Style
Okay, by now you have turned off the auto passing feature and know how to throw a short pass to the open man. If not, please go back and refer to the 101 write-up. Now you should already be able to get 5-10 yards per passing play and that is great, but now we will discuss the Pro way of passing and we will focus on increasing every pass play to at least 10-20 yards. Also after getting the ball to the open man how to stretch out the play a few more yards by running the ball after the catch to really make the play Pro-like.
Let’s start with a personal favorite play of mine, the shotgun formation hook play. By now you know how to pick the play and the right formation. In the shotgun formation blitzes and coverage is harder to read... or is it? No, not really. You will want to still read the coverage and probably the A.I. If playing against the CPU , it will be either in a coverage set or a 4-3 or dime defense. Look for the weakness and then snap the ball. Faking a snap is just a waste of time and the same rules apply here. You will want to count to five and snap the ball. In a hook play the receivers will run to the outside lanes then hook back into the center of the felid. You will want to take the snap, look for the best man’s route and pass the ball to him right as he is making the cut back to the center of the field.
There are a few reasons to open up the passing game with this on play one. If playing against a friend or online, the player will start to pick coverage plays and this will exploit the running game later. Secondly, if you are playing against the CPU, they will change as well since they were programmed by humans. Now when you have this play down and can make it consistently you will want to try and gain more yards by also running after the pass play. A quick juke move (deceptive move) and you should get at least 4-8 more yards by running at first.
There are several good shotgun passing plays and for the sake of time you will want to switch up the plays each time after learning them; switch plays often, normally on 1st and ten. It’s expected that a running or option play will be picked. This is a great time for a shotgun passing play and will throw off the defense. While the shotgun formation is great, do not forget about the regular long passing plays in a normal passing play. The same count and rules apply. Just remember that there is less room. Use the Quarterback’s ability to shift out of the pocket if you need time for the open man to get open. Still use the trick of switching plays from the right, left and center to make your plays less predictable.


Newest 'Math Blaster' helps kids at blazing speed

Program set in future where robots take over

Gannett News ServiceThe new “Math Blaster” is set in the future, in a world where robots have taken over because humans have forgotten how to do math.
Best for ages 6 to 12
Knowledge Adventure, www.knowledgeadventure.com, $29.99, Windows 2000/XP.
For the past 20 years, the "Math Blaster" series of software has taught kids math facts by engaging them in fast-paced arcade games. "Math Blaster: Master the Basics," the newest in the series for kids ages 6 to 12, doesn't deviate much from this popular format. It still delivers math practice in a fast-paced setting, but its look and feel have been upgraded to reflect the current video game culture.
This new "Math Blaster" is set in the future, in a world where robots have taken over because humans have forgotten how to do math. Players join the Math Blaster Corps, and take on the persona of a hip-looking boy who is outfitted with anti-gravity boots and a special energy-blasting glove. Only by answering math questions on Earth, Saturn and Pluto can the player save humanity.
While there are six different games tied together by this save-the-world storyline, the predominant formats are side-scrolling and platform. In both, players seek the numbers they need to answer math equations while avoiding bad robots, blasting apart obstacles and jumping onto moving platforms.
Before starting their adventure, kids choose from eight levels of math content, with the easiest covering addition and subtraction up to eight and the hardest drilling quotients and products involving multiples of 10. The games test kids' speed and accuracy in answering math facts, their ability to complete math equations, and how well they can do mental math and problem solving.
While the pace is fast, if players are having trouble completing a round, the software slows down the robots' interference so that kids have more time to think.
"Math Blaster: Master the Basics" puts drilling math facts into a gaming format that will intrigue this generation of video game-playing kids. However, the software's frenetic pace may not be a good fit for children who need time to calculate math answers, particularly younger kids. Also, the game will have less appeal to girls since the main character and all the secondary characters are male.


Gaming's Grand Master

He puts emotions above lurid action In the early 1980s, Shigeru Miyamoto got his first glimpse of a Rubik's Cube at a toy fair in Japan. The young video-game creator from Nintendo Co. (NTDOY ) found the six-sided puzzle to be an ideal toy -- a cinch to get started, murder to solve, and impossible to put down. Miyamoto kept those qualities in mind when he created Super Mario Bros., which went on to become the hottest-selling video game of all time, with more than 40 million copies sold. And the mustachioed carpenter-turned-plumber was in good company. Six of Miyamoto's games are among the global top 10 sellers.

This winning streak has earned worldwide adulation for Miyamoto, now a senior managing director. When the diminutive 52-year-old dropped by the Nintendo World Store in New York on Sept. 25, he found 1,500 people waiting in line for his autograph and a photo. The line had begun forming two days earlier, with fans flying in from as far away as Europe. "One fan told me: 'You're a god!' I was very embarrassed," he says.An industrial designer and artist by training, Miyamoto joined Nintendo in 1977 just as the Kyoto-based toy and playing-card maker was venturing into arcade games. His big break came four years later. An arcade game called Radarscope had just flopped, crimping Nintendo's ability to sell its arcade machines. Although Miyamoto knew little about electronics, he was asked to create another game that would run on the same hardware. Within months he and a team of engineers had come up with Donkey Kong, featuring a cartoon carpenter who strives to rescue his girlfriend from a giant ape. "For those three months, it was all I thought about, 24 hours a day," he recalls. Nintendo quickly shipped 63,400 units, outselling every other arcade machine and making Miyamoto a celebrity.In 1985, Nintendo began targeting the living room with a console called the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and kids quickly got hooked on Miyamoto's Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. The next year he created a labyrinthine fantasy world called The Legend of Zelda, which could take skilled gamers days or weeks to complete. In the 1990s, Miyamoto led the charge into 3D graphics with Super Mario 64. His latest triumph is Nintendogs, a game for Nintendo's top-selling handheld console. It has sold 1.6 million units since its April debut.Counting all the sequels, Miyamoto's three biggest hits -- Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda -- have sold 271 million copies worldwide. Still, Nintendo failed to thwart latecomers Sony (SNE ) and Microsoft (MSFT ), both of which have steamed past Nintendo in the $25 billion-a-year video-game market. Inevitably, some fault Miyamoto for trying to stay loyal to his relatively young fan base while rivals opted for more realism -- read, lurid action -- to rope in older players. Many of Miyamoto's games, such as the quirky outer-space adventure Pikmin, still resemble cartoons. "We want our games to be for anyone from 5 to 95 years old," he says. "Software makers want games to be so realistic, but first and foremost they should evoke emotions."In the future the interactive experience may no longer be limited to the four corners of your TV or PC screen. Games may come to fill an entire room, like the holodeck in Star Trek, the designer says. But for now, Miyamoto's strategy for expanding Nintendo's $5 billion sales base is to shoot for the broadest possible age range. When Nintendo launches its next-generation platform, dubbed the Revolution, sometime in 2006, it will come with controllers that Miyamoto patterned after a simplified TV remote -- as opposed to ever-more-complicated game controllers. He can easily envision such gadgets on a coffee table in front of the TV, equally accessible to both young and old. "Most people think video games are all about a child staring at a TV with a joystick in his hands. I don't," he says. "They should belong to the entire family."

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