A helpful reminder: Video game consumption is not correlated with gun violence

The focus on video games as a source of American gun violence is driving me a bit crazy, so I just wanted to toss some evidence out there. Even though most of you have likely long suspected the two things were not related, you'll be happy to know that science agrees with you. Consider this a helpful kit for forwarding to concerned relatives. Here's a 10-country comparison that found no correlation between video game consumption and gun violence. Here's a Harvard Medical School summary that explains why some people claim video games cause violence, and why the studies behind those claims aren't actually telling us that. And here's a PBS FAQ explaining a lot of the same issues. With violent video games (as with everything else) context matters.

Happy Birthday, Walt! Oswald the Lucky Rabbit will finally get a voice (in Epic Mickey 2)!

It's Walt Disney's 111th birthday today, and there is news from the video game world that probably would have made him smile: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, his pre-Mickey Mouse, silent-era creation, is finally getting a voice after 85 years! Oswald has appeared as Mickey's (silent) partner in 2010's Epic Mickey, but the sequel to the game, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (which just came out for Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Mac, PC coming in January), will let him speak for the first time ever. Who will be providing the voice of Oswald? None other than the legendary voice actor, Frank Welker, who is now the official, permanent voice of Oswald for any future cartoons. My Disney-loving heart has melted. (via Mashable)

Photo credit: Disney Wiki

Atari Flashback 4 console

NewImage

AT Games has released the new Atari Flashback 4 console, this time with wireless joysticks. It's loaded with Asteroids, Missile Command, Space Invaders, Jungle Hunt, Centipede and 70 more classics, but not E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Here's the menu:

3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Adventure, Adventure II, AirĀ·Sea Battle, Aquaventure, Asteroids, Backgammon, Basketball, Battlezone, Black Jack, Bowling, Breakout, Canyon Bomber, Centipede, Championship Soccer, Circus Atari, Combat Two, Combat, Crystal Castles, Demons to Diamonds, Desert Falcon, Dodge 'Em, Double Dunk, Fatal Run, Flag Capture, Football, Frog Pond, Front Line, Fun with Numbers, Golf, Grand Prix, Gravitar, Hangman, Haunted House, Home Run, Human Cannonball, Jungle Hunt, Maze Craze, Miniature Golf, Missile Command, Night Driver, Off The Wall, Outlaw, Polaris, Realsports Baseball, Realsports Basketball, Realsports Soccer, Realsports Volleyball, Return to Haunted House, Saboteur, Save Mary, Sky Diver, Slot Machine, Slot Racers, Solaris, Space Invaders Space War, Sprintmaster, Star Ship, Steeplechase, Stellar Track, Street Racer, Submarine Commander, Super Baseball, Super Breakout, Super Football, Surround, Tempest, Video Checkers, Video Chess, Video Olympics, Video Pinball, Warlords, Wizard, Yars' Revenge
Atari Flashback 4 (Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!)

MoMA's new videogame collection

NewImageNew York's Museum of Modern Art has acquired 14 videogames that will be playable in a gallery there beginning in March 2013. According to Paola Antonelli, the MoMA's senior curator of architecture and design, these titles are "the seedbed for an initial wish list of about 40 to be acquired in the near future, as well as for a new category of artworks." I'm delighted that my favorite game, Pac-Man (1980), was part of the initial acquisition. The others include: Tetris (1984), Another World (1991), Myst (1993), SimCity 2000 (1994), vib-ribbon (1999), The Sims (2000), Katamari Damacy (2004), EVE Online (2003), Dwarf Fortress (2006), Portal (2007), flOw (2006), Passage (2008), and Canabalt (2009). "Video Games: 14 in the Collection, for Starters"

Real Myst "linking book"

Mike Ando created a replica Myst "linking book" with an embedded screen to play realMyst. "A 'real' Myst book"

Steven Johnson's favorite video games

Author Steven Johnson spoke to the Gameological Society about his latest book, Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age, and the games he enjoys playing.

The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?

Steven Johnson: Well, I’m on book tour, so there’s very little play. When I get home, I will no doubt be watching my children—who are obsessed with Uncharted 2, or Uncharted 3, I guess—on the PlayStation. Which I might join them a little bit for. Book tour tends to suck up all your spare fun time.

Gameological: Is it a different experience for you, playing games with your kids? As opposed to gaming before they were around?

Johnson: The coolest thing that we had for a while there—they haven’t been playing it as much—we had this great thing going which one of these days I want to write about. We both were playing kind of separately that game Dawn Of Discovery. It’s a beautiful game that simulates a 14th-century trading empire. It’s a classic simulation, very complicated, with lots of variables. One of the things that’s so powerful about it as an intellectual exercise is that you have to think on all these different scales and from all these different perspectives. So you have to think like a city planner, an admiral, a spice merchant, some industrialist type who is building an iron mine, and this is what they’re doing for fun, building this little trading empire.

What are you playing this weekend? Steven Johnson (Via The A.V. club)

Ohio State Marching Band halftime show of video game theme songs

Halftime performance of The Ohio State University Marching Band during a game against Nebraska on October 6. A "video game" theme, with music from Zelda, Halo, Pokemon, Tetris, and others.

Read the rest

3 days to go to Kickstart Sword of Fargoal 2: Classic Dungeon-Crawler Adventure


The Kickstarter for Sword of Fargoal 2 has only three days to go. The developers have so far received $30,000 out of a $50,000 goal. I want this to happen, because Sword of Fargoal is one of my favorite iPhone games.

From my review of Fargoal last year on Boing Boing:

What makes roguelikes much fun for me? Part of it is finding potions and spells inside treasure chests -- a popular phrase with people who fish is, "the tug is the drug" --and there is a similar surge of euphoria when I happen upon a Detect Traps spell, a Restore potion, or a Reflective shield. The sense of discovery as I crawl through a dungeon level, pushing away the fog as I do so, compels me to keep exploring, and killing a nasty monster whets my bloodlust. The difficulty level of the game is perfect -- my character has died at least a dozen times, requiring me to restart at the beginning each time. But it's not so difficult that it's discouraging. As soon as I start a new game (the levels, monsters, and goodies are randomly generated so that no two games are the same), my level 1 character is faced with challenges and rewards suited to his experience.

Kickstarter: Sword of Fargoal 2: Classic Dungeon-Crawler Adventure

PBS Off Book video: What Are Indie Video Games

[Video Link] As I've mentioned before, I love PBS's Off Book video series about Internet culture. The videos are intelligent, well produced, and often reveal things that surprise me. The newest video, released today, is about indie video games.

The video game industry is now bigger than Hollywood, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent developing these interactive experiences. But there are also small-scale developers working in the indie game realm, creating unique and experimental video games without the budgets of the larger "AAA" games. These indie game developers devote time, money, and take great risks in a quest to realize their creative vision. They deftly balance game mechanics & systems, sound & visuals, and an immersive storytelling experience to push the gaming medium into revolutionary new territory. Much like indie music or indie film, the indie gaming movement provides a creative outlet for game designers who want to work outside of the mainstream.

Zelda the kitten plays with the iPad

We got a couple of kittens a few weeks ago. Louis doesn't pay much attention to Game for Cats, but Zelda (above) loves it.

Kingdom Rush available on iPhone


[Video Link] My favorite tower defense game is Kingdom Rush. You can play it online for free, and there's also an iPad version. I don't want to admit how many hours I spent playing it on my iPad. (I will say that I finally finished the game by playing it the entire time I was on a plane from Los Angeles to New York and back to Los Angeles earlier this month.)

The cartoonish art is very appealing, as are the monsters and towers. The goal of the game, like all tower defense games, is to prevent the invading hordes from making it through a gate to your kingdom at one end of the display. You do this by placing towers staffed with archers, knights, magicians, and cannoneers along the path that the monsters run down (the monsters appear from a trail emanating on the opposite side of the display). As you kill the monsters, you collect gold, which can be used to buy more towers. Even though there are a few more bells and whistles, it's a simple game -- but addictive.

Today, Kingdom Rush became available as an iPhone app. I would say that the $.99 price tag is a bargain, but if take into account the otherwise productive hours you will spend playing it, the true cost is far more.

Kingdom Rush

Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress: Learn to play the most complex video game ever made

O'Reilly Media has just released what must be counted as one of the most important books of the decade: Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress

NewImageDwarf Fortress may be the most complex video game ever made, but all that detail makes for fascinating game play, as various elements collide in interesting and challenging ways. The trick is getting started. In this guide, Fortress geek Peter Tyson takes you through the basics of this menacing realm, and helps you overcome the formidable learning curve.

The book’s focus is the game’s simulation mode, in which you’re tasked with building a dwarf city. Once you learn how to establish and maintain your very first fortress, you can consult the more advanced chapters on resource management and training a dwarf military. You’ll soon have stories to share from your interactions with the Dwarf Fortress universe.

• Create your own world, then locate a site for an underground fortress

• Equip your party of dwarves and have them build workshops and rooms

• Produce a healthy food supply so your dwarves won’t starve (or go insane)

• Retain control over a fortress and dozens of dwarves, their children, and their pets

• Expand your fortress with fortifications, stairs, bridges, and subterranean halls

• Construct fantastic traps, machines, and weapons of mass destruction

Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress

Read the rest

How to turn old car parts into a video game controller

Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik shows how to turn old car parts into a video game controller.

NewImage

The idea came to me while adjusting the mirrors in a car, and realizing that the little mirror-control joystick was better than many video game joysticks I used. I then had a waking dream of the grand possibilities of playing old videogames with control pads sourced from cars. The dream was a beautiful, fantastical vision of a world we could all achieve. I woke up hours later behind a CVS, and headed straight to a junkyard to make this dream real.

Super-sleuth readers may note that in the final project I used a seat control panel instead of a mirror controller. There's a reason for that. When I got the mirror control pads and joysticks home and tested them, I uncovered one of the auto industry's darkest secrets: the "up" and "left" directions on mirror controllers are THE SAME DAMN THING. They're wired together! Think of all the times you've thought you were adjusting your mirror up, not left, thinking you were hot shit? IT'S ALL BEEN A FILTHY LIE. So I soon learned to look elsewhere. Luckily, 70s-80s American cars provided the solution, since they're full of funny little chrome joysticks for seat controls and other various duties.

How to turn old car parts into a video game controller

In defense of the much-ridiculed train simulator, Railworks


[Video Link] Kirk Demarais (author of the great Mail Order Mysteries book) wrote a positive review of the PC train simulator Railworks, which is frequently derided for its lack of monsters, magic, aliens, or eastern european gangsters.

My respect for the Railworks community began to grow as it occurred to me that their passion does not require thrills, instead they are contented by life's subtleties. Their fantasies don't rely upon adrenaline or destruction, they just wish to peacefully command a Class 47 Triple Grey all the way from Oxford to Paddington. They bask in the sights of the uninterrupted countryside. Their serenity is found in the rhythmic valley echos of rumbling tracks. Hobbies are supposed to be relaxing, right? Most of my video gaming ends up driving me to internet walkthoughs in fits of frustration.

It wasn't just the Railworks state of mind that I envied, I also fantasized about having enough spare hours to leisurely delve into each sauntering level, gazing at my monitor blissfully, pausing only to adjust the camera angle every few minutes, or turn on the windshield wipers.

By the time Railworks 2 went on sale for eight bucks I was primed to join the ranks of the noble virtual conductors. I proudly bought a copy.

The cross-country journeys were as soothing as anticipated and I even felt like I was getting a pixelated glimpse into the United Kingdom where most of the missions take place.

Near the end of his review Kirk admits, "Such simple pleasures go a long way, but the truth is I can't say that I've been able to become one of them. I've played for twenty plus hours, but I rarely complete a level without acting on the urge to derail."

In defense of Train Simulator

SimCity E3 Gameplay Trailer


[Video Link] The upcoming SimCity looks cool. It uses something called the GlassBox Simulation Engine to run the simulation. I won't pretend to understand how it works, but here's Maxis' Andrew Willmott's GDG 2012 "Inside Glassbox" presentation that goes into detail about it.

Inside GlassBox