Duke Nukem Forever, the Chinese Democracy of the video game world that has been in development since 1997, seems to have gotten a release date of May 31, 2011. Nonetheless, it seems some people will feel that this game isn't the "real" Duke Nukem Forever -- it's just something that was hacked together and rebranded as such (like Commodore/Amiga has been doing lately). [via Techdirt]
Violent, mostly compelling trailer for the forthcoming game Homefront, which looks like a playable cross between The Siege and Red Dawn. Which is appropriate, since the trailer credits the game to "the writer of Red Dawn," John Milius.
Kill Screen Magazine. Has anyone seen this? It's a video game magazine from prominent writers who have written for the New Yorker, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, and The Onion.
this was pretty HOTT last week in the advertising/planning/creative community that dominates my twitter feed.
According to the latest rankings...
Top 5 Awesomest:
Bottom 5 Inadequatest:
1. Kevin Federline
2. Mitt Romney
3. Sanjaya Malakar
4. Robert Pattinson
5. The Hills (sorry, Rex)
Now go forth, and be more awesome. -- FB
You may remember Passage, the small yet surprisingly poignant lo-fi game that asked players to meditate on mortality. Now, Jason Rohrer has a new game coming out called Sleep is Death, and it looks promising. [via] -NA
Three gorgeous iPhone games that really make the most of the multi-touch surface:
Eliss came out last year -- it is unbelievably addictive and super challenging. It's been on everybody's best-of iphone lists, but if you haven't played it yet, get thee to the app store! In the words of the developer, Steph Thirion: "Warm up your hands, you're up for some serious finger gymnastics in the bizarro galaxy."
Colorbind by Daniel Lutz, is only about a month old, and it is just as much fun as Eliss- but in a much more relaxing way. You're weaving colored strips to connect the corresponding dots, and it's challenging, but pretty zen at the same time. As Mr. Lutz says, "Colorbind is easy to play, hard to master."
Bebot is not exactly a game, but he is pretty much the cutest synth robot best friend you will ever have. You can thank Russel Black at Normalware for this one.
Shoutoutout to my #1 homeslice JSTN for turning me on to all the best iPhone things. :DS
Jimi Hendrix's stepsister, Janie Hendrix, let it slip during an L.A. Times interview that a Hendrix edition of "Rock Band" video game will be coming before the end of the year. Any new Hendrix music in the Rock Band franchise will be part of a slate of new products being planned to coincide with the 40th anniversary of his death. --MM
Some people were creeped out seeing Cobain sing in the Guitar Hero 5 trailer, but I don't think anyone was prepared for the sight of him singing Bon Jovi in the unlocked version:
Guitar Hero 5 - Kurt Cobain Trailer. It still seems weird to see that Daniel Johnston tshirt.
This is pretty great... there's a British game show called Golden Balls that concludes with a segment called Spilt or Steal that directly borrows the classic Prisoner's Dilemma. There are many YouTube clips, but the best has to be this one.
The new issue of Wired is guest-edited by J.J. Abrams, so one should expect some mystery. But that mystery manifests itself in literally dozens of puzzles within the pages, many of which Steven Bevacqua was the first to solve. But he confesses in an NYT story that he is still stymied by some. On the Wired side, Tom gets the quotes: "Blog posts can effectively summarize a story and give you the takeaway idea. [But print publications are still better suited to conveying] the nuance and effort of understanding the complexity of an idea and why it matters -- what the riddles and wrinkles are within an idea." LOST viewers take note: numerological hints!
Twitter-based viral gaming thingamajig for Terminator Salvation. You're supposed to follow @Resistance2018 and then go to Resistance2018.com.
Is World of Warcraft more addictive than coke? Erm, yes -- but only one makes you wander around Times Square looking for people to talk to!
Recommended: If Gamers Ran The World. It's an essay that transposes game theory on top of public policy without trying to force bad metaphors. It argues that key gaming concepts -- scarcity, complexity, efficiency, failure, etc. -- are all effective tools for understanding governance. [via]
While Gawker Media slashes its network, could BoingBoing pick up the slack? A new launch: Offworld, a videogaming blog.
At the new New York Tech Meetup last week, Charles launched the ImInLikeWithYou API for multiplayer games.
Rosenbaum takes on the puzzle people: Crossword, Sudoku Plague Threatens America! "Doing puzzles reflects not an elevated literary sensibility but a degraded letter-ary sensibility, one that demonstrates an inability to find pleasure in reading. Otherwise, why choose the wan, sterile satisfactions of crosswords over the far more robust full-blooded pleasures of books?" And: "Sudoku has been turning ordinary humans into pod people for less than a decade."
The SciFi Channel is apparently working with game designers on some type of new show, according to this LAT story. It sounds like it's mixing TV, MMORPGs, and ARGs, which sounds either magnificent or disastrous.
Jane McGonigal at the New Yorker Conference: Saving the World Through Game Design. She's great. A few months ago, I did a Pecha Kucha (definition) presentation related to my life-becoming-a-game idea. Lookie, there's video! I roll out the Prius, speed dating, Run Lola Run, ImInLikeWithYou, Lost, TiVo, EveryBlock, and many others as examples.
Why Lost Is the Best Game Show in TV History. "This is as much a game as a story." Tomorrow is going to be a very big deal.
Continuing with our theme of verisimilitude in Grand Theft Auto, here's a Flickr set with side-by-side comparisons of the fake Liberty City and somewhat less fake New York City. (See also, only vaguely related, Kottke's post on the uncanny valley, which takes up the recent New Yorker article on photoshopping.)
Fittingly, NYT drops its Grand Theft Auto IV coverage in the City section of the paper today. (The other appropriate section might have been Travel.) It's a long tour of the game's version of NYC, told from the perspective of a New Yorker (Dave Itzkoff, also known for covering sci-fi for the NYT Book Review) who wants the neighborhoods to resemble his version of the city. The conclusion is effectively a topographic take of the Uncanny Valley conundrum:
If I truly believed in Liberty City as a functioning community, how could I open fire on my fellow simulated citizens (even if they shot at me first)? How could I tread all over the social contract in a ripped-off truck full of bootleg prescription medication?
It's not the game's fault that it can't perfectly replicate the infinite variety of New York. But it sometimes comes so close to pulling off the illusion that it invites you to look for the imperfections.
I just bought the game and have only played a little. But the descriptions here and elsewhere sound like NYC run through the mosaic filter on Photoshop. This geographically-confused, post-catastrophe setting resembles Cloverfield more than anything else. (You know, that scene where they get in the subway at Spring St. and end up at 59th St.) Let's compare these two for a second: look how each toys with class, violence, geography, simulation, reproduction, terrorism, sex, and urban geography. This should be the only bar conversation we have for the next couple months.
But back to this desire to adhere to verisimilitude in game play. It's peculiar, especially given the history of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, notorious for its propagation of violence as the narrative of gaming. Yes, peculiar, but also understandable for anyone familiar with the city's grid. The question seems to be, how close of a representation do we actually want? There it is again, the Uncanny Valley, which even popped up on a recent episode of 30 Rock, in the form of Tracy Jordan (himself a refracted mirror of Tracy Morgan) trying to make the first successful porn video game.
Desire and play. I suspect this is what gets lost in the muddled debate about the interplay of reality and fiction in the super-simulation canon. The new cultural critics are "deciders," sprung from both the left (social realists) and the right (values pundits), both trying to impose "this is fiction" and "this is real" logic onto games and movies. But it's not just them -- it is we who, in various ways, all participate in this debate about reality and non-reality, seeking an answer to whether something is either too unrealistic or too realistic.
All this makes me wonder if the question of realism has been overplayed, or if in fact it is the only question, now and forever. All I really want to know is: what makes playing the game so much fun? And how much does "reality" have to do with the answer?
Color me confused by the massive critical repulsion toward Funny Games (someone really needs to write about how the big New York film critics -- yes, all of them, in one way or another -- are so scared of hyper-violence). I saw a midnight showing on opening night and, although it wasn't mind-blowing, I like what it's trying to do. (Has anyone called it "Clockwork Orange for the digital age" yet? If not, I want to see my name blurbed on the DVD.) Anyway, you need a link! So play the Funny Games Game, which involves torturing your friends with phone calls (which I find more repulsive than anything the film could muster!). [via]
This is a surprise: Play Value is a decent videoblog! Imagine a VH1 show that's about the lost history of video games. Each episode takes up a historical gaming topic, for instance "The Fall of Atari", "Sega vs. Nintendo", or "Tetris: Splitting the Iron Curtain". It's also full of trivia: Nintendo started out as a playing card company, Steve Jobs worked for Atari before a spiritual retreat to India, and so on. [via]
For a while there, every article about Guitar Hero was insistent in making the point that playing the game does not actually make you a better guitar player. (No shiz!) That will all change with Guitar Rising, a game that requires an actual guitar to play. [via]
I'm embarrassed that this devoured my Sunday: Learning to Play Using Low-Complexity Rule-Based Policies: Illustrations through Ms. Pac-Man. Finally, those two years of college calculus paid off. Sorta. (See also: robots are learning to lie!)
If I have any regrets for 2007, it's that I didn't play enough video games. And Slate's sprawling epic gaming conversation (17 printed pages) is full of proof that I missed the year's most important cultural happenings. Sure, I put in my time with Desktop Tower Defense, threw the Wii control around a bit, and dabbled in Halo 3. But I didn't play Rock Band, I didn't play BioShock, I didn't play Portal, I didn't play Super Mario Galaxy... I didn't even play Scrabulous!
I wrote an essay -- "The Game of Life" -- for this month's Wired where I make a wacky assertion: gaming has become the prevailing narrative of our time.
The whole idea started by noticing how several of my daily interactions -- watching TV, reading RSS, dating -- have become very game-like. At first, I didn't know what to call these instances, but I eventually started using the term gaming moments. And then soon enough, a definition arose: "competitive interactions in daily life that involve play." Sometimes the interactions are social, sometimes they are you versus a computer algorithm. But once you've noticed them, they suddenly become ubiquitous.
"Gaming the system," it seems, has become standard operating procedure for everything from booking an airline ticket to battling your TiVo's automated recommendations.
In some ways, this is an admittedly trite argument. Whether you're watching The Wire or reading Shakespeare, you've heard that life is a game. (Nassim Taleb even coined a word for this: ludic fallacy, "the misuse of games to model real-life situations." His criticism is actually directed at a branch of mathematics and philosophy -- game theory -- but the point is still worth recognizing.) Nevertheless, let's look at the evidence: if you stop and look around, you'll find game scenarios everywhere. Like Poe's purloined letter, the notion of "gaming the system" has become so obvious and pervasive that it's almost invisible to us.
In the closing paragraphs of the essay, I hypothesize why so much of our society (particularly social interaction, online activity, and cultural products) seems like a game. My theory has to do with data. (This will sound familiar to anyone who read my earlier essay on predictions, where I suggest that data availability has led to a penchant for prediction applications.) Because we've opened more data (through search engines, APIs, open records, and so on), we've tweaked consciousness just a little bit: now when we encounter data-centric scenarios, we immediately think about how the information can be manipulated.
Anyway, read the essay for yourself. In comments here, I would like to explore other examples where you stopped and said, "this is a lot like a game." I provided several in the essay (reality tv, search engine optimizers, etc.), but some others that come to mind include traffic, dieting, speed dating, and improv classes.
Also, feel free to throw in some websites -- some examples: Farecast.com (where you "gamble" on the future of airline ticket prices), Reality All Starz (where you make challenges for yourself), and GetHuman.com (where you learn how to game automated voice systems).
So now, your turn.
Slog has an interesting little bit on the anatomy of a blog rumor -- Bungie (the creator of the Halo franchise) distancing itself from Microsoft.
Wired's cover story on Bungie and Halo 3. I strangely still don't know anyone over at Bungie yet.
Decent NYT on why poker is harder than chess for computers to master.
I spent my Saturday night in Portland at the classic videogame emporium Ground Kontrol for Metafilter's anniversary party (photo: me air-quoting Ben and Tif), so the new documentary King of Kong has some nerd resonance right now.
Has there ever been a good movie spun off from a video game? If you say Super Mario Bros., you're foolin'. Well, now we have Dead or Alive to contend with. I can't exactly say it looks good, but it could be the best of the genre.
Another story on the video game farming trade, this time from Julian Dibbell in the NYT Magazine: "The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer". (Dibbell is the author of Play Money and the canonical work on virtual identities "A Rape in Cyberspace".) Includes a pretty great slideshow and video.
We've seen alternate reality games for movies and for music and for video games, but I believe the game for Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts is the first ARG built around a book. The adventure starts at LostEnvelope.com and includes clues left on Flickr, YouTube, and other sites, all ending a real-world prize. More details at Vulture.
Another work-related post, but you'll like this one. Remember that NewsBreaker game? As a follow-up, we created "group game" in select movie theaters where the audience collectively plays the game on the movie screen by moving their bodies. CNet has a story about it, but the real action can be seen in this video clip.
NYTimes.com started a chess blog to coincide with the United States Chess Championship: Gambit.
I already linked to it once, but I'm doing it again because one of my favorite blogs also linked to it today: MSNBC.com Newsbreaker Game. I know, it's no Desktop Tower Defense, but check it out anyway.
WSJ: "Conscious that an increasing number of adults are going online to play games and do puzzles, a growing number of traditional media outlets are adding games to their web sites." Cited: Hearst, CBS, ABC, NBC, and E!
The new NIN album, Year Zero (out April 17), is being promoted by 42 Entertainment, which you may remember as the alternative gaming agency that worked on The Beast for A.I. and I Love Bees for Halo 2. The narrative of the game/story actually started with a concert t-shirt that had the phrase "I am trying to believe" highlighted amongst the letters of cities. And starting there -- iamtryingtobelieve.com, a site that warns you of the drug Parepin -- puts you on the mission that already includes several other sites. [via]
I haven't been keeping up with all the hype about the Nintendo Wii, but I recommend these two articles: Business Week's "The Big Ideas Behind Nintendo's Wii" and The New Yorker's "In Praise of Third Place".
It seems gauche to link to items that both Jason and Robin already got to, but I can't let this Gears of War promo go by. (Song reminder: that's a cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World," which appeared on the Donnie Darko soundtrack.)
The best part about the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 3 trailer is that it feels like somone's funny idea of a Phil Collins mashup.
NYT Mag: Steven Johnson on The Long Zoom. The theoretical first couple paragraphs is the best.
Metropolis: The Principals of Play, which looks at how game theory can inform urban design.
The current issue of Harper's (not online yet) has a great five-person symposium (including Steven Johnson, Raph Koster, and Thomas De Zengotita) about video games as a learning device.
SF0 "is a Collaborative Production Game. Players build characters by completing tasks for their groups and increasing their Score. The goals of play include meeting new people, exploring the city, and participating in non-consumer leisure activities."
Klosterman responds to the criticism of his game column via a GameSpot interview. Chuck's newest column: harshing on Snakes on a Plane's "prefab populism." Uh-oh.
Naughty America is a forthcoming MMPORG for getting naughty online. Like Second Life, but dirty.
Klosterman's "The Lester Bangs of Video Games" seemed to get a thumbs down from blogosphere gamers (though I think most of them missed the point), but Henry Jenkins himself discusses the essay on his new blog. UPDATE: Clive Thompson takes it on in Wired too.