Women outnumber men by nearly 2-to-1 in USC's video game design graduate program

LA Times Video

The top-ranked University of Southern California's graduate video game design program has 12 women and seven men, indicative of a rising trend in the ratio of men to women in the graduate and undergraduate programs at USC. Watch the video here.

From the LA Times:

"I will make a crazy prediction," says Martzi Campos, a master's student in the USC program. "There are the same issues in the film industry, but I would argue that games will grow faster and games will change faster. We're newer. Because film has a long history, it's a bigger boat to steer. Right now, with the indie game explosion, games have the chance to lead the way and be like, 'Hey, films, check us out. Look how diverse and widespread we are.' This is our chance for our medium to really shine."
Read the rest

Kontrol Freek Grips help old hands play console games

61LymPjCf0L._SL1050_
Kontrol Freek Grips help make the Xbox One control comfortable, and keep my hands from cramping up.

Lately, we've been playing Star Wars Battlefront. There is nothing quite like watching my daughter force choke some other player. Thing is, I can't play much of anything for very long, before my hands ache. I've previously written about how Kontrol Freek's button extensions help my hands, and now I find their Grips pretty amazing.

These thin foam pads simply peel and stick to your controller. They are moderately reposition-able and maintain their stick for a few peels and move-arounds. It is fairly simple to get them right the first time, however. Once in place they add some much needed cushion and thickness to the controller.

We've been using one for several weeks. Over time the cloth layer that covers the foam will start to separate, but it really isn't a big deal and doesn't impact the effectiveness of these pads. I've found Control Freek Grips, matched with the button extensions, change my video game experience from one of needing some anti-inflammatories to relatively pain-free play!

KontrolFreek Grips - Xbox One via Amazon Read the rest

Rumors of "Left 4 Dead 3" arise after long silence

left4dead2linux

After a 7 year hiatus, perhaps the greatest horror video game series of all time may be picking up where it left off! Rumors have it that Valve has delayed work on Half-Life 3 to work on Left 4 Dead 3.

Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 were wonderful zombie smashing, cooperative first person shooters. The game play was fantastic, the characters, levels, and script hilariously endearing. We all wept when Bill sacrificed himself for the team. I'm hopeful!

Via Express:

The last game in the series came out back in 2009, but it is believed that the latest title has been given a 2017 release date.

Reports also claim that the four characters have already been given names, with the sole female said to be known as Katherine.

Read the rest

Listen: David Bowie's little known video game soundtrack

Bowie

Here’s some great music from David Bowie that I didn’t know about until today. Even though it was created over 15 years ago it would fit in perfectly alongside his newly released Blackstar.

Released around 2000 for PC and the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, Omikron was a strange hybrid game that let players do a bit of body snatching around the titular science fiction city…

Bowie is said to have had some input into the storyline, but his most memorable contributions are to the soundtrack and of course his in-game cameos. 'Hours...', the 1999 album Bowie released just prior to the debut of the game, featured a number of songs that had been written just for the game, but were slightly reworked so that they were not so specific to the sci-fi world. They would appear on the Omikron soundtrack in more tribal, remixed forms alongside original instrumentals Bowie also composed for the game.

Read more on Atlas Obscura. Read the rest

Undertale offers a new spin on retro RPG video games

ut-1

Undertale is a new 8bit RPG that's much different from the rest. In most games, you have to kill bosses and monsters to survive. In this game, it’s up to you whether you want to kill anyone, and depending on your choices, you can make friends that you would have lost, engage in secret fights, and much more. You have so many choices in the game that you can replay it over and over to achieve all the endings. But be careful, because even if you reset the game, some characters might have a vague memory of you.

The fighting style of Undertale is also unique. When an enemy attacks you, instead of automatically losing your health, you can dodge their attack by moving your “soul” across the screen to avoid being hit. Because of this, you don’t have to lose any damage throughout the battle.

Undertale starts by your character falling down a giant hole at the top of a mountain and waking up in a world full of monsters. They were all banished to live apart from society for the rest of their lives by humans who sealed them underground with a magic spell. The monsters have figured out that the only way to undo the spell is to have the power of seven souls, but since monsters’ souls disappear after they die, they’ve spent years killing the humans who fall into the underground to gain their souls. Because of this, most of them want to kill you so they can leave, but it’s up to you if you want to hurt them back, or show them that you both can find peace. Read the rest

Halo 5 is here

0-236

Last night at midnight, Halo 5 launched. Will this be the last epic adventure for video gaming's mightiest champion? The Master Chief is back, but all the cockamamie advertising colors our hero as the bad guy.

I wish I could tell you if this game is any good! I've certainly been waiting a long time to play it! I purchased my Xbox One at launch, anticipating that Halo 5 would shortly follow. My Xbox has been around for two years now, with nary a Chief sighting. I could have played the Master Chief collection, but I heard poor reviews of its translation to the Xbox One.

The only game I've really enjoyed in the interim has been Destiny, which was developed by Halo creators Bungie. There is no small amount of question, in my online Destiny circles, around Halo killing Destiny. Destiny has also felt like Halo, without the amazing backstory and hero. Bungie is creating a backstory, and thus far it is pretty much a dud. The game play, and its mesh of FPS with MMO queues, like farming (sigh) are addictive but it is not Halo. I miss stickies. I long to gloriously dual wield the needler, or have a hell bent for leather Warthog chase! Will Halo 5 kill Destiny?

Large online teams of 12 players, mashed with an insane gameplay frame rate, and 4 player campaign mode all sound wonderful! I'm far more interested in the story, however. I have not read any Halo fiction, I have simply played the games, and the Master Chief is my ultimate video game hero. Read the rest

Watch: How "oldschool" computer graphics worked back in the eighties

yXJE5z
In part one of a series, the limitations of color on eighties-era computers and early game consoles like NES and Commodore 64.

The market for rare and vintage console video games is booming, thanks to two odd resources

Screen-Shot-2014-09-26-at-3.07.24-PM

CNN Money investigates the crazed market for the video games of yore, fueled by the likes of RetroLiberty, a YouTube channel about finding vintage video games at swap meets or parking lot deals, and Videogamesnewyork, a shop specializing in vintage game gear from the last century. Read the rest

It's kind of like Her Story, but with a disgruntled owl game developer

owltime21
Interrogate video footage of an aging game developer owl and solve the mystery of whatever it is he's trying to say. Try the search terms "cocaine", "murder" and "ubisoft."

Here's a young Jack Black in a 1983 TV ad for Pitfall game

ml187b

From The Museum of Classic Chicago Television: "Here's a commercial for the videogame Pitfall! by Activision and featuring at the beginning a very young-looking appearance of the actor Jack Black - rockin' the pith helmet." Read the rest

The book of Genesis

If you grew up in the comfortable eighties, you might still have memories of the 16-bit console war, the perverse thrill of wishing for a Super Nintendo or a Sega Genesis, and then arguing with other children on the playground about which was better.

These days being a Sega Genesis fan is a little bit weirder -- you chose the camp that would be basically out of the hardware market by the new millennium. A new book, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works brings that beauty and weirdness to full-color life in a celebration of the Genesis by Guardian games editor Keith Stuart (disclosure: he commissions, edits and pays me when I write about games at the Guardian, which is sometimes).

The Verge's Chris Plante loves the book:

A 30-page history of a 1990s video game console serves a certain niche audience, but the 28 interviews with the people responsible for Sega’s hardware and most cherished games are more digestible and should pique the interest of anyone who owned the system. And there are dozens of glossy pages containing design documentary, hand sketches, key art, title screens, and photography. It's easy to zone out, turning between one drawing and the next.
Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works is available for £35.00, while an extra £15 gets it to you by Christmas. Read the rest

Wattam, new game from Katamari Damacy creator, is about connections

You might know artist and designer Keita Takahashi for his iconic, idiosyncratic Katamari Damacy (previously). Last year, he joined Funomena to work with longtime friend and Journey producer Robin Hunicke on a brand-new game.

At Sony's PlayStation Experience event this weekend, Takahashi presented the first trailer for that PlayStation 4 game, called Wattam, which introduces a cube-like "mayor" character.

"The idea for this game came from when Keita was playing with his two-year old son, and wondered about what if all toys lived, and connected by themselves?" Hunicke writes. The word "Wattam" is derived from the Tamil and Japanese words for "making a circle" or "making a loop," as Takahashi worked with his friend Vikram on the project.

"This new word acknowledges one of the game’s core inspirations: making connections between different types of things," says Hunicke. Read the rest

Sarkeesian on sexism in video games, and becoming a hate-target for talking about it

Mother Jones reporter Nina Liss-Schultz asked Anita Sarkeesian why she thinks she has been targeted by knuckle-dragging assholes on the internet--vicious threats, death, rape, and beatings by haters who happen to be men, and believe that women like Sarkeesian should shut up and stay out of their clubhouse. Read the rest

Why men choose female avatars in video games

"it’s all about the butts." Read the rest

1982 high school yearbook with videogame theme

London's IDEA booksellers unearthed this 1982 yearbook, from South Plantation High School in Florida, that has a fantastic hand-drawn video game theme. (via the excellent @ideabooksltd Instagram feed) Read the rest

Gweek podcast 138: From Russia with Doubt

Your browser doesn't support the HTML audio tag. You can still download the show, though!

var audioTag = document.createElement('audio'); /* Do we not support MP3 audio? If not, dynamically made a Flash SWF player. */ if (!(!!(audioTag.canPlayType) && ("no" != audioTag.canPlayType("audio/mpeg")) && ("" != audioTag.canPlayType("audio/mpeg")))) { AudioPlayer.embed("audioplayer_1", {soundFile: "http://traffic.libsyn.com/gweek/gweek138.mp3", transparentpagebg: "yes"}); $( '#audioplayer').hide(); } else /* Ok, we do support MP3 audio, style the audio tag into a touch-friendly player */ { /* If we didn't do the "if mp3 supported" check above, this call would prompt Firefox install quicktime! */ $( '#audioplayer' ).audioPlayer(); }

In each episode of Gweek, I invite a guest or two to join me in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. This time my guests were:

Ramez Naam, a computer scientist and the H.G. Wells Award-winning author of three books, including the sci-fi thriller Nexus, which has been optioned as a film by Paramount and director Darren Aronofsky. The follow up title, Crux, came out in August.

Dean Putney, Boing Boing’s software developer and Gweek regular, whose self published a book of his great-grandfather’s World War I photos.

Danimal Cannon, a touring chiptune and heavy metal musician who occasionally composes music for indie video games. His album Parallel Processing was recently launched as the soundtrack for the new game Wave Wave on iOS.

This episode of Gweek is brought to you by:

Lynda.com, with over 2,000 high-quality and engaging video courses taught by industry experts. Visit lynda.com/gweek to try lynda.com free for 7 days

GET GWEEK: RSS | On iTunes | Download episode | Stitcher

Show Notes:

Ramez's picks:

Geekomancy and Celebromancy by Michael Underwood: Fun, witty, insider-joke filled geek urban fantasy.

Read the rest

Interview with Ed Fries, creator of Halo 2600

In 2010, Ed Fries, a former Microsoft VP of game publishing, programmed an Atari 2600 version of Halo. The game, titled Halo 2600, has now been added to the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Smithsonian magazine interviewed Fries:

I don’t want to get too caught up in "Art" with a capital A in a sense, because then it becomes this whole kind of pointless argument about what is art to begin with. I think what matters is, can we tell human stories in a way that affect people—maybe change how they feel about themselves, or the world or exposes them to something that they haven’t been exposed to before? And in the game business, that simple thing is actually pretty hard. I mean, it’s taken us many years and a lot of technological advance to be able to make realistic characters on a screen that look like people, that don’t look like robots, that move like real people, that when they talk, the way their mouths move or eyes sparkle. You know, that doesn’t make you feel like you’re looking at a puppet—that makes you feel like you’re looking at a real human being. Once you get past that, then you open up the door to tell real stories about real people but in a way that’s different than a movie because the player’s in control. And that’s the promise for video games.
"Demaking Halo, Remaking Art: 'Halo 2600' Developer Discusses the Promise of Video Games" (Smithsonian) Read the rest

More posts