Calling all pinball wizards!

“FlipFest” – what organizers describe as Kansas City’s first pinball convention – is happening from 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the KCI Expo Center.
Organizers expect more than 500 “pinheads” for tournaments, a swap meet and 60 or more machines set for free play. A one-day pass costs $15 for adults, $10 for children under 12.

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Explaining the disconnect between women and video games

Video game companies that want to market to female gamers need to provide a way for players to become acquainted with their characters, according to a prominent game designer

It's not that women don't understand video games, it's that video games don't understand women.
Or so says Sheri Graner Ray, a game designer for the last 16 years, a veteran of Sony Online Entertainment and the Cartoon Network, and a keynote speaker at the Sex in Video Games conference, held in San Francisco on Thursday and Friday.
In her address, Ray, author of the book "Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market" and a longtime spokeswoman for female gamers, offered up an explanation as to why women make up less than 10 percent of the gaming population.
Most video games, Ray argues, are like bad boyfriends — they're too involved with their own male sexuality to even try to crack the female sexual code.
Ray pointed to your typical video game heroine: overly endowed, highly sexualised, all but naked.
But "male characters are just as exaggerated as female characters, and women just need to get over it, right?" Ray asked.
Well... not exactly.
While it's true that both male and female characters display the common heroic traits of being young, strong, virile and fertile, Ray said, only the female characters display physical traits humans get when they're ready for sex: partially open mouths with large red lips, heavy eyelids (or "bedroom eyes").
The female characters are also dressed in sexually explicit clothing and placed in sexual poses, whereas the male characters aren't.
These "sex object" images aren't going to appeal to the average female gamer, Ray said.
As part of her presentation, Ray included a slide of some half-dressed, highly sexualised and anatomically perfect male Calvin Klein models.
"Who would be willing to play a character that looks like this?" she asked.
Not surprisingly, in a largely male room, only a few women raised their hands.
But simply sexualising the male characters wouldn't necessarily do the trick, Ray implied. The fact is, she said, female games are concerned with more than just exciting visuals and flashy surfaces.
"Don't trivialise the importance of the emotional experience," she said: Video games need to provide a way for women to have a deeper experience with the characters.
Video game companies that truly want to market to female gamers will provide a way for players to become acquainted with their characters, Ray said, even allowing for an emotional attachment to develop. She suggested that some games could feature an interview section in the tradition of magazines like Seventeen and Tiger Beat, which run photos of teen idols alongside short Q&A sections that reveal casual details: hobbies, tastes and quirks.
In the long run, Ray said, female gamers need more than just action to stay involved, and to illustrate her point, she told of a seminar at which she watched a 13-year-old girl excel at a popular game. Instead of continuing to advance to higher levels, the girl soon got bored and quit playing.
When Ray asked why, the girl said, "I pulled his heart out once, why do I need to do it again?"

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Sunday Lunch with Larry Hodgson Inventor of Golden Tee

Sporting a Greg Norman windbreaker and the pale, slightly scruffy look known in geek circles as a "monitor tan," Larry Hodgson looks just like the software engineer and hack golfer that he is. There is little about him that screams "major technology mogul."
But Hodgson, 44, is, in fact, a pretty big deal.
The coin-operated video game he invented, Golden Tee, is the most popular such game in the world. Ever. And Hodgson, known mostly as "the Golden Tee guy," is both hero and tormentor to the more than 20 million people who play the video golf game in restaurants and bars.
A serious foodie who spent years working in restaurant kitchens before deciding that he should "grow up and take a day job," Hodgson is enjoying raw oysters and spicy tuna roll sushi at the upscale Blue Water Grill, a chic downtown spot that's a far cry from the casual hangouts that usually house Golden Tee machines. But Hodgson, a suburb-dweller who keeps a pied-a-terre in the luxury apartment building across the street, is more than comfortable here. It's the kind of place that offers a certain quiet, anonymous elegance.
'We need that other thing'
Hodgson grew up in Calumet Park, the kind of kid who people politely called "different." He spent his time doing things like dismantling a streetlight to see how it worked and stealing his sister's roller skates because he needed the parts for an invention. He was not an academic superstar.
So, yes, it worried his widowed mom that, when other kids were heading for college and careers, Larry spent his days working at his restaurant kitchen job and then coming home to play with his computer -- remember the Commodore 64? -- until all hours.
But, Hodgson says, "I think she kind of got it," when, a couple of years after he took that "day job" with Arlington Heights-based Incredible Technologies, then a small-time developer of video game software for other coin-op manufac- turers, Golden Tee hit the market.
The company is now an industry leader, with more than 100,000 Golden Tee machines in play around the world. And Hodgson, who has worked there for 19 years, has been married to company president Elaine Hodgson for seven years. He's an important part of its management team -- "My wife owns the company, so I get a lot of leeway" -- and he's working on several new projects. In overseeing the company's development group, including the programmers who make the games work and the artists who give them their look (one key difference between the two groups: artists hate fluorescent lights), Hodgson is, theoretically, doing less hands-on programming these days.
Sometimes, he says, though, he can't help himself.
"I love programming so much that I could do it constantly. It's addictive -- and you get instant gratification. You write a line of code and a character moves across the screen," he says.
And, in his heart, Hodgson says that he is still pretty much "the Golden Tee guy."
The game, Hodgson says, "is designed for you and I to sit there and play while we have a beer. It's something else to do. Especially for men, we wouldn't sit there just shooting the breeze. We need that other thing."
"If you think about classic bar games," he says, "like darts, they're not games where you have to be totally connected to it."'Not that great of a video golfer'
A self-described "bad golfer," Hodgson says he's "not that great of a video golfer, either, it turns out, which is doubly depressing."
But, as every dedicated fan of Golden Tee knows, being good at the game is not what keeps you coming back.
After Hodgson and a small team of developers created the first version of the game, he says, "we'd get together each night -- none of us were married at the time -- so we'd get together each night and play. It made memorable times out of ordinary nights. And the minute we felt that, that became our vision for the game. We wanted to do that for people. And now, when someone tells me, 'My buddies and I play,' that's the greatest compliment."
It's hard, even for Hodgson, to quantify the game's exact appeal, though. There's something about the way it lets you have a Tiger Woods-quality swing. And something about the cool, slightly surreal look of it.
It's golf, but not really.
"I'm not sure that the natural skills of golf translate," he says, "but some knowledge of the game does, like how to manage a course and manage risks."
Hodgson hasn't given up on improving his own real-life golf skills -- "it's like the Cubs," he says, "there's always next year" -- and he joined a weekly golf league at work.
"Real golf," he clarifies.



American InterContinental University Opens New Game Design Lab; Hosts Two-day ZBrush® Boot Camp
WESTON, Fla. – Blast your friends in today’s hottest video games by learning about the process involved in creating them. American InterContinental University (AIU) invites those who are interested in pursuing a course of study in Game Design and Development to participate in a weekend of events to celebrate the opening of the university’s new, industry-current Electronic Game Design Lab. The AIU campus is located at 2250 N. Commerce Parkway in Weston.
“Our new bachelor’s degree program in Game Design and Development gives students the full spectrum of technical skills necessary to pursue exciting career opportunities in this field, from the creation of interactive 2D and 3D computer games, to understanding the business concepts related to game production and distribution,” said Dean Tom Takach, School of Information Technology.
EVENT OPENING MEETINGThursday, June 15, at 7:30 p.m.
International Game Developers Association meeting at 7:30 p.m., followed by a free workshop (the meeting and workshops are open to public).
FAU, Fort Lauderdale CampusAskew Tower, 9th floor220 S.E. 2nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale
LECTURES AND WORKSHOPSSaturday, June 17, from Noon to 6 p.m.Open house: Noon to 2 p.m.Come tour of the Game Design and Development Lab. Refreshments will be served.“ZBrush® Boot Camp,” Game Design and Development Workshop: 2 to 6 p.m.
10 spots available: call David Harper, 954-446-6303 or Tamalin Fox at 954-446-6336; cost $35, which includes one full copy of ZBrush for each paid participant.
1) Lecture and demo by character artist and game designer Vitaliy Naymushin on the “Next Generation Art Tools for Game Development.” Naymushin is the 3D modeler for Quake® and was recently hired by i.d. Software. He has worked on games for PS2®, Xbox360®, Gamecube® and PC, including titles such as “Bloodrayne 2TM,” “Ghost Recon 2 TM,” “Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion TM” and “Sin TM.”
2) Mark Bradshaw, lead programmer for AWE Games® (a subsidiary of AWE Productions, Inc., will lecture on trends in the game industry.
3) AIU’s Tom Takach, Dean, School of Information Technology, will discuss higher education aspects of the game industry.
4) Workshops on next-generation art tools for game development and 3D modeling.
Sunday, June 18, from Noon to 4pm
Second day of “ZBrush® Boot Camp,” Game Design and Development Workshop:
10 spots available: call David Harper, 954-446-6303 or Tamalin Fox at 954-446-6336; cost $35, which includes one full copy of ZBrush for each paid participant.
AIU offers a comprehensive approach to Game Design. Students can learn to create software and utilize game engines to produce and develop games. They also will have the opportunity to learn various programming languages, modeling and animation skills, networking principles, and business and marketing approaches. Concentrations are available in Game Art and Game Programming.
In addition to its Game Design and Development program, AIU also offers an array of traditional and non-traditional degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.
AIU South Florida is located at 2250, N. Commerce Parkway, Weston, Fla. 33326. For more information visit www.aiufl.edu or contact Dipa Patel at 954-446-6323.
About AIU
Founded in 1970, AIU has continued to grow as a career-focused university, offering market-driven programs and a curriculum designed to prepare graduates for successful, rewarding careers. AIU offers bachelor’s degree programs in business administration, information technology, criminal justice, visual communication, media production, game design and development, interior design and fashion marketing and design. Master’s degree programs include business administration, informational technology and education in instructional technology. American InterContinental University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. AIU South Florida is located in Weston. For more information call 1-866-AIU-GRAD (1-866-248-4723) or visit http://www.aiufl.edu.

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Sex in Games: It's a Turn On

SAN FRANCISCO -- At the first annual Sex in Video Games Conference this weekend, developers, distributors and players converged to answer the question: What really turns people on?
There's no shortage of sex on the internet, but getting users hot with sex-based video games is more complicated than just booting up a computer.
Lust or Bust
Scoring with XXX GamesAvatar sex took off on its own with almost no help from the games business. But it's never too late to think about profits. Annalee Newitz reports from San Francisco.
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Bush-WhackedObscentity prosecutions take their toll on web pornographers. Randy Dotinga reports from San Diego.
Plus:For regular updates on sex and tech, see Regina Lynn's Sex Drive Daily blog.
"There's a whole demographic out there who's tired of the magazines and the photo galleries and the passive DVD experience," said xStream3D president Brad Abram. "We're giving them what they want."
XStream3D Multimedia's VirtuallyJenna (NSFW) takes a single-player approach to arousal. Much like porn, VirtuallyJenna focuses heavily on visuals but with the added bonus of interactivity. Users can prod and play with a simulated Jenna to their hearts' content. Where's the fun in that?
"People love playing with the sex toys, posing the girls, trying out the different dildos and butt plugs," said Abram. "That's the number one thing." Abram said players rarely use the game's first-person mode. "People want a voyeuristic point of view," he said.
VirtuallyJenna is only one of many steps toward realistic computer sex. Pretty soon, "you're going to see technology give us more options," said designer and programmer Dave Taylor, whose conference presentation focused on the bright future of sex graphics.
"My personal fascination is with giant, inflated breasts," said Taylor. "That's what attracted me to this, to the technology."
Across the world, thousands are logging on to virtual worlds like Second Life to meet, flirt and experiment with others. Free from the constraints of real life, they use text chat and sexy avatars to get it on in the digital realm.
"There's an enormous turn-on when the user realizes there's another person on the other side of the screen," said Brian Shuster of Red Light Center, one several massively multi-player online erotic games entering the market this year. Similar in many ways to regular MMOG's, MMOEG's will offer players entirely sex-based environments.
Conference chair Brenda Brathwaite also pointed to the appeal of playing with others.
"The number one thing that turns players on is other players," she said. "Two players can respond to each other better than any computer ever can."
For MMOG regular and single mom Andrea Fryer, it's not sexy graphics that get her in the mood; it's World of Warcraft. She finds questing with potential partners "makes you feel quite frisky."
Of course, not everyone is turned on by the same things.
Kelly Rued, creative director at Black Love Interactive, publisher of an upcoming MMOEG, Rapture Online, said: "I like fem boys and boys with cat ears."
Rapture Online, however, will accommodate a wider range of interests, said Rued, including "vanilla sex, BDSM and furries."
In her conference keynote, game designer Sheri Graner Ray reminded developers that what's arousing for men isn't necessarily arousing for women. Psychologically, she said, men and women react differently to different forms of erotic content.
Men usually prefer visual stimuli, said Ray, "(Women) want sex; there's no question about that.... But for them, there has to be an emotional connection."
"I like written erotica, but I'm in the minority," said Gabe Zicherman of Boonty. "Most guys, if they can't see it with their eyes, it's not going to turn them on."
Sex therapist Dr. Marty Klein sees arousal along less gender-oriented lines. "Desire is created by anticipation," he said, and by non-physical influences like imagination. "The ultimate turn-on is a sense of freedom, the feeling that sexuality is an adventure you can design."
Jonathan West of the sex simulator Virtual Hottie 2 (NSFW) agreed that freedom can be arousing. When playing with the game's model, users have choices, West said: "Maybe I'll leave her clothes on and touch her. Maybe I'll take her clothes off and have my way. But those options, that's what turns people on."
In addition to freedom, video game sex also offers safety. "There are no consequences," said Fryer, "that's what's sexy for me. In real life ... there's so much danger, especially for a woman."
"You could be a plain Jane out in Duluth, but at night you could be a furry dominatrix," said Brathwaite. "You're not going to get an STD, you're not going to end up accidentally pregnant. It's safe."


For the love of retro video games


From the Atari 2600, Intellivision, Sega Genesis and the Turbografx-16, many people of today's age seem to not appreciate what the gaming age has grown from.
A man named Nolan Bushnell in or around 1972 created the well-known game called Pong. This was a simple tennis-like game with two paddles and a ball going back and forth with increasing speed as the rounds progress.
At the time, this was an amazing feat. The industry has grown exponentially over the past 34 or so years.
Atari 2600 was the first console, well actually the most-known "first console," with the release of games such as Space Invaders, Adventure and Asteroids. The Magnavox Odessey, which didn't succeed, only released about 33 titles.
Soon after, the competition began, especially with the development of Intellivision, Commodore 64, and some more Atari console improvements such as the Atari 5200, which didn't do too well, and the Atari 7800.

Today, appreciation for many of these consoles has decreased drastically, and to many people, these consoles are crap, junk, garbage or just plain suck.
While game play and graphics aren't anywhere near today's gaming age, appreciation should still be intact. Some games are still played and involve competitions, such as Space Invaders and Asteroids, or any sort of shooter-type game, and are the most commonly known titles in Internet forum arcades.
The most popular competitive game today is known as Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), but this is more recent than old.
Japan, currently the largest game creator, has developed the well-known game series Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and has developed many consoles that have grown, such as Nintendo and Sony.
Nintendo, which started as a playing card developer, has become a major company. They created Nintendo (NES), Gameboy, Super Nintendo and many other variations and technological advancements. Currently Nintendo's console is the Gamecube and Nintendo DS (which is another Gameboy type model).
Sony has gone from Playstation to Playstation 2, and Playstation Portable (AKA the PSP).
Some people do appreciate the old age. So the graphics and gameplay aren't as great, but just look at what our parents grew up with and there should be some overall appreciation.
There are old titles out there that do in fact have great audio and gameplay, such as the Ys series (more known in Japan) and the classic Tetris title, but sadly, the retro age is dying. But it doesn't have to.

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