Halo 5 is here


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

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


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

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


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!

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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

World's largest private collection of video games

Michael Thomasson, 31, has the world's largest collection of video games. The Buffalo, New York man's basement is filled with approximately 11,000 games (and consoles to play them). According to the Associated Press, Thomasson started collecting when he was 12 but sold everything twice: first, to buy a Sega Genesis, and then in 1998 to pay for his wedding. Thomasson is featured in the Guinness World Records 2014 Gamer's Edition that, unfortunately, does not include any photos of fat twins riding motorcycles or Robert Wadlow. Read the rest

Eating hot peppers and reviewing video games

In the curiously compelling Hot Pepper Gaming video series, hosts eat hot peppers and then review video games. Here, Erin Schmalfeld enjoys a habanero pepper before telling us about Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Read the rest

Super Mario Rock Opera, by Song a Day guy Jonathan Mann, debuts in NYC Aug 17

Singer-songwriter Jonathan Mann, best known as the Song a Day YouTube star, has a cool new project that those of you in New York can enjoy.

"My Super Mario Rock Opera goes up at Joe's Pub this Saturday, August 17th," he says. "The one-line pitch: Mario becomes self aware. Would love to see some happy mutants there!"

I ran into him recently at our blogging pals Laughing Squid's barbecue in Brooklyn; he shared this news with me there, and I knew many of our readers would dig it.

As many of you may remember, Jonathan wrote me a song --all for me! it was amazing!--called "Kittens in Space," to cheer me up when I was going through treatment for breast cancer, and gagging on chemotherapy. The song worked. Watch it below.

Read the rest

Video game lets you kill the most scientifically accurate zombies yet

The Last of Us is a new video game about the zombie apocalypse. But not just any zombie apocalypse. The Last of Us zombies are based heavily, and accurately, on a genus of parasitic fungus that really does take over the brains and bodies of non-human animals like tarantulas and ants. Kyle Hill has a lot of delightfully horrifying things to tell you about this fungus at the Overthinking It blog. Read the rest

Short film about Ralph Baer, the “Father of Video Games”

PBS Digital Studios profiled Ralph Baer, the “Father of Video Games”

Ralph Baer’s inventing career began following a two-year service in the military during World War II. Returning home from Europe, he went to school on the G.I. Bill and graduated with a B.S. in Television Engineering. In 1955, he joined an electronics firm called Sanders Associates, which did work for the military. Still there in 1966, he began work on an electronic box that would allow people to play games on their televisions. The working invention was later licensed as the Magnavox Odyssey and became the first home console system for video gaming in 1972. Last year he celebrated his 90th birthday – the same year the Odyssey turned 40. Here he talks about those early days of video game history and why now, at 90 years old, he's still inventing.
Read the rest

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