Okay so, what do you use your tablet for these days? Well, most of us know it is quite versatile and can be used for just about anything. Still, a good number of the first adopters are using it for a portable gaming platform. And it turns out it works great for that and it works so well in fact, that even non-gamers are getting into the action. Does this mean that gaming may get a big boost in future sales for many of those standout titles and signature games? Yes, I believe it does, and it will be a big boost for online gaming sites as well.
Now then, before you dismiss my argument here, I am not alone in making it. In fact, recently one of the more influential Slashdot posters “SoulSkill” posted an excellent summary titled Gamining Is the Most Popular Use For Tablets,” (April 8, 2011) and he cited several sources including “The Guardian’s Games Blog Reports” and a survey from Google’s Admob for March 2011.
Yep, everyone is watching this trend. One interesting statistic quoted was that; “84% of tablet owners play games, ahead of even searching for information (78%), emailing (74%) and reading the news (61%). 56% of tablet owners use social networking services on their device, while 51% consume music and/or videos, and 46% read ebooks.” And; “The survey found that 38% of respondents spend more than two hours a day using their tablets, while another 30% spend 1-2 hours.”
So, is the world of online gaming finally going to break into mainstream and go on the road? I believe so, and just the other day I met a young man playing a game on his iPad at Starbucks and having a good old time. After about 15-minutes his friends showed up for a little school work study session, so he got his gaming fix between his waiting time there. Soon we will see folks playing at Dentists and Doctors Offices, at bus stops, and on their lunch breaks at the office – even professional adults, and you thought gaming was only for teenagers – think again!
Turns out that computer game sales are on the rise once again due to the recovering recession and the return of the consumer to retail, after a considerable hiatus. Retail sales for the first quarter have seen strong results and good corporate earnings which has also boosted game sales. 2011 looks to be a decent year in this sector and the Tablet portability makes it that much better. Please consider all this and think on it.
- Lance Winslow
Once a year, the Penny Arcade Expo comes to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and invites gamers from all over to join the fun. If you don’t know what Penny Arcade is, first of all shame on you, and secondly it is a webcomic series that has grown to become versed in various forms of media. From merchandising, to getting its own video game for the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, to even a documentary-style video series on Gametrailers.com, Penny Arcade has grown into an idea that represents gamer culture.
Enter PAX East, a gaming party masquerading as a convention. (It’s referred to as PAX East because the “main” convention is located in Seattle, WA and is referred to as PAX Prime.) The social, party-esque atmosphere can be felt through almost every corridor: From the dedicated hallway filled with bean-bag chairs where gamers can play their mobile platforms and hang out, to the console and PC free-play areas where anyone can kick back and play video games in the company of a room filled with like-minded individuals. There’s even a “Classic Arcade” filled with retro cabinets for the weepy-eyed nostalgic types, or the youngsters who want to try their hand at some old-school titles. (Both groups are impatient, easily irritated and have a unique aroma so pick your poison.)
That’s not to say the exhibition hall is a waste of time, quite the contrary in fact. Showcasing some of the latest and greatest, PAX East was primed (see what I did there?) and ready to drop some jaws and stop a few hearts. Here’s a brief rundown of the most impressive items on display:
L.A. Noire- After being blindfolded, thrown into the back of a truck and brought to an undisclosed location that smelled like salt water and hopelessness, I was treated to a live demo of Rockstar Game’s latest open-world thriller. Okay besides the demo part, none of that actually happened, but either way L.A. Noire looks incredible. Set in the 1940’s players will assume the role of Detective Cole Phelps as he investigates a variety of unsolved cases by interrogating suspects, questioning leads and following hunches. “Gamescan” technology will bring realistic facial expressions to characters, adding a layer of depth to interrogations as Phelps tries to unravel a series of grisly murders.
Nintendo 3DS- After getting my hands on the 3DS and trying out a handful of titles ranging from Street Fighter and Dead or Alive: Dimensions to Kid Icarus and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I can safely say that the 3DS makes good on its claim for glasses-free 3-D. Interestingly enough, the most impressive display of the systems capabilities came in the form of “AR Cards,” which are physical cards players can place on a table and, using the 3DS’s camera, create an augmented reality mini-game based on the surroundings. Players must then physically move the system, which will be tracked by the internal gyroscope, and use their sense of depth to complete challenges while keeping the 3DS focused on the card.
Child of Eden- A new game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 that uses the motion sensing capabilities of Kinect and Move and a personal favorite. Child of Eden is the spiritual successor to Rez, meaning it’s an epilepsy-inducing, pulse-pounding, psychedelic on-rails shooter. It’s much easier, and enjoyable, to play than it is to try and explain. Publisher Ubisoft displayed the game at their booth, which is being developed by Q Entertainment. This is the first game that will actually make you want to brag about having a Kinect.
Some other notable titles on display were: Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware’s entry into the MMORPG space which promises to give players the rich, meaningful story we’ve come to expect of the team. The Mortal Kombat reboot, which is as bloody and satisfying as its ever been. Bastion, an action-RPG from Indie developer SuperGiant Games debuting on the PSN and XBLA. And finally, the long awaited, much anticipated FPS, Duke Nukem Forever.
PAX East is a trip worth taking. It’s an experience that reminds gamers why we do what we do. It’s also the most relaxed and socially-tuned convention you could attend. From the impromptu concerts to the tabletop board game tournaments, PAX is everything gamers are looking for, and even a few things they weren’t. (Why are you dressed as Wonder Woman, ma’am? You clearly don’t have the… anything for it.)
There are two certainties in life: One is that we will all eventually die. It is simply unavoidable. The second certainty is that baby wolves are adorable. No matter how hard you hit the gym or however many dozen raw eggs you eat every morning, (*Kids, do NOT eat raw eggs. Seriously.) there is no reachable level of machismo high enough to overcome the cuteness of baby wolves. It’s probably coded into our DNA. Luckily, for gamers who could use just a touch more adorableness in their lives, Capcom is finally launching Okamiden in the U.S. after its initial September release in Japan.
For the uninitiated, Okamiden is the sequel to Okami, which debuted in 2006 on the Sony Playstation 2 and was re-released for the Nintendo Wii in 2008. The series is a combination of genres that blends action, puzzle-solving and platforming much in the same vein as The Legend of Zelda. The original game focused of the adventures of Amaterasu, a sun goddess who takes the form of a white wolf to help save the world from an evil spirit known as Orochi. Amaterasu ventures to locate the Celestial Gods, who give her the ability to use the Celestial Brush, a powerful tool that gives players the option to freeze time at any point and draw on the screen to unleash various magical abilities. These powers are used both in combat and aid in solving puzzles throughout the journey.
In Okamiden, much of the same principles apply. Only this time players will assume the role of Chibiterasu, Amaterasu’s son. Taking place nine months after the events of Okami, much of the people and Celestial Gods “Chibi” will encounter are the children of key characters from the original game.
A unique and advantageous feature of the sequel now that it is on the Nintendo DS is the use of the stylus and touch screen, which makes using the Celestial Brush less of a chore and more of a treat. While most of the original “Brushstrokes” appear in Okamiden there are also new powers as well as new areas to explore. Impressively, the game looks as gorgeous as ever, its unique cel-shaded style in tact. However, this heavy rendering burden often leads to frame-rate drops during combat, resulting in some very unwelcome lag time. Combine that with the fact that each time the Celestial Brush is summoned the music stops and the screen changes, the experience can be jarring.
Unquestionably, however, the benefits far outweigh the shortcomings and so Okamiden is nothing less than an absolute pleasure to play. The relatively easy difficulty and imaginative gameplay will hopefully be able to draw a large crowd even with Nintendo’s first party releases dominating the market. With the latest versions of Pokemon releasing less than a week ago, and the launch of the 3DS looming overhead, Okamiden has its work cut out for it.
For gamers interested in a light-hearted, satisfying experience set inside the world of classical Japanese folklore, Chibiterasu’s adventure is just what the doctor ordered. Okamiden is ready to release on March 15, and will be available for $29.99 exclusively on the Nintendo DS.
In case you’ve just arrived from the outer reaches of the Universe and have yet to grasp the concept of Earthen advertising or missed the legions of salivating people amassing outside game stores across the country, I have news for you: There is a new generation of Pokemon, and it arrives in the U.S. marketplace on March 6.
For those who’ve lost count, this is the fifth generation of the Pokemon series. What started as “Pokemon Red Version” and “Pokemon Blue Version” (or “Green Version” if you live in the anime-styled cybernetic wonderland I’ve been taught to call Japan) back in 1996 has grown into a phenomenon that will surely outlast us all. “Pokemon Black Version” and “Pokemon White Version” are the latest franchise entries set to make sure your feverish need to “catch ‘em all” is well satisfied.
I’d imagine one who lives a life bound by the laws of logic and reason would find no fault in asking, “How could this series have lasted so long? And what could they possibly keep doing to make people buy what is essentially the same game over and over again?” Well, Mr. imaginary person who’s seemingly left-field questions actually make for a great paragraph transition, I’ll tell you. First, the “intro to RPG’s” style of Pokemon makes it a great game for all ages so it stands the test of time as a fun and addictively rewarding experience. Second, the addition of 156 brand new Pokemon to capture is just Nintendo’s way off teasing the fans to “come get some.” (A challenge they will undoubtedly rise to.)
Features wise, these new games offer enough unique experiences to keep the series from going stale. A new battle system, including 3-on-3 battles and “Rotation Battles” which play out as 1-on-1 fights where the player can switch out between the 3 selected Pokemon without costing a turn, will add yet another layer of depth and strategy to the combat. Nintendo DSi features will add video chatting and smoother wireless connectivity than ever before. Improved graphics, speech bubbles to replace text boxes and a more cinematic approach to battles will make “Black” and “White” the most visually-appealing generation yet. Finally, the all-important starter Pokemon, with whom no wannabe hero could venture without, will be able to perform “Combination Moves” with one another. These are character-specific special attacks that can combine during team battles to devastate opponents with status effects and raw power. Those starters: Snivy, Tepig and Oshawott will keep the tradition of being Grass-Type, Fire-Type and Water-Type, respectively.
Combining these features with a new storyline and the brand new region of Unova ensures that long-time fans and newcomers alike will get to enjoy all of what these new versions have to offer. Releasing March 6, “Pokemon Black Version” and “Pokemon White Version” will be available at retailers nationwide for $34.99. As Ash Ketchum would say, “Enjoy your last few moments of freedom, Pidgey, ’cause you’re mine!” In other words, get ready to explore a whole new world of Pokemon.
Check out the official trailer!
The mission of Scholar Gamers has always been simple. Take something as enjoyable as playing video games and add a layer of productivity to it. Kids need money to get an education. Kids also enjoy playing video games. So, why not allow those same kids to do something they like (playing video games) while working towards something they need (a scholarship to get an education.) But what if we took that idea of using video games as a positive force in the world and applied it to more than just scholarships?Jane McGonigal, Ph.D., the director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future, has been posing this question for a few years now. Her recently published book titled, “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better And How They Can Change The World” hopes to attract the attention of both gamers and non-gamers alike. Her message? That understanding the way games are made and applying those concepts to real-world scenarios can benefit people in ways they never imagined.
On the surface, it sounds hard to believe if not altogether implausible. But consider for a moment what we’re actually doing when we play video games and how it affects us. According to Bernard Suits, a philosopher quoted in McGonigal’s book, “playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” Realize also that all games share four basic, defining traits: Rules, a feedback system, a goal, and voluntary participation. As far as how it affects us, I think that adrenaline rush speaks for itself. Every gamer knows the feeling of accomplishment. That moment when the end-game boss finally goes down and the world is safe once more, thanks in no small part to our heroic, fate-changing actions. For the average gamer, there’s no real-world equivalent to match that sense of satisfaction.
But, as crazy as it sounds, the end-game thrill isn’t actually what keeps us coming back for more. For gamers, it’s not the victory we crave, it’s the thrill of the hunt; the monumental challenges ahead of us that seem just past the brink of possible to overcome. The moments when we feel most content during gameplay are when our brains are working at full force: Figuring out puzzles, using all our skills to slay a difficult foe, or trying to outwit online competitors. In other words, we like to work hard. It makes us feel good. Afterwards, even when the game is turned off, we feel more confident, have a greater sense of self-worth, and take pride in overcoming those unnecessary obstacles. But game designers already know this. These are the ideas they consider when developing our favorite blockbuster titles.
So how does this apply to the real world? Well, if we can find a way to apply these concepts out of game then perhaps we can share our positive attitudes, our sense of accomplishment, our willingness to work hard, and the intrinsic meaning we find in gaming with everyone else. McGonigal suggests trying to run businesses and communities like game designers, and solving real-world problems from the perspective of game theorists. And you know what? I think she may be onto something.
BY: Vincent Parisi
Part 2 of the “Future of Gaming” has arrived as promised. Having a lot to get through, let’s just jump straight into it.
If you’ll recall (cue wavy flashback effect) last time around focused on how 3-D is beginning to flood the market. But 3-D is not the only new constant thrown into the gaming equation. Two more important variables have also entered the fray; Peripherals and gesture controls. Specifically, in addition to the Nintendo Wii, Sony now has the Playstation Move and Xbox 360 has the Microsoft Kinect.
Now, if you take a look at the launch game lineups for both Move and Kinect, you’ll quickly realize two things: One, there are no games catering to the hardcore crowd and Two, the games that are available are either complete garbage or feel like an extended tech demo (much like Wii Sports did for the Wii console.) And while neither of these new devices have proven they deserve a spot in the future of console gaming, the potential for greatness is unquestionable.
Stand firm and brace yourselves friends, because here’s the part where I ask you to bear with me as we explore the vast imaginings and inner workings of my mind. (Pay no attention to the penguins and decorative Spider-Man posters. They are unstoppable, ever-present thoughts I can’t consciously control.)
Imagine, then, that we could combine the technologies of all the peripherals currently offered on different consoles. Take the responsive, gesture-controlled Move controllers, the 3-D technology, and Kinect’s ability to learn and understand a players face, voice, environment, and even the slightest raise of an eyebrow. (As seen in the new “Avatar Kinect” application Microsoft unveiled at CES 2011.)
When combined, the end result is what could potentially be the most immersive entertainment experience ever offered, in any capacity. Complete, direct player interaction. Personally, I’m a fan of role-playing, (don’t give me that look, I’m talking about video games) so I’m looking at this from an RPG perspective.
With such powerful technology, developers could create a responsive game that players could interact with in a way standard controllers simply can’t provide. You could walk through a town using a thumbstick, sure, but how about when talking to an NPC for information? You would actually have to talk to him. Sure it could be scripted, a la the Dialogue Wheel from “Mass Effect,” but gamers would actually be conversing with characters. Plus, with facial and voice recognition, these characters would be seeing you specifically. Meaning that each profile created would be for a specific player who the game would learn about. Your expressions, reactions, tone of voice, unconscious gestures, would all be detected and impact character interactions, ultimately defining your hero.
With motion sensing, gesture controls would also have a hand in gameplay; Whether it be by ducking or evading attacks, or maybe by picking up or interacting with objects in the environment. There are thousands of ways to make gesture controls more immersive, and developers will eventually get a handle on all of them.
The 3-D would obviously be used to bring the environments to life. Allowing characters who populate the landscape to appear in varying degrees of depth as you progress through an area, as well as appearing in players’ peripheral vision. After this technology is perfected, and coupled with Kinect’s ability to sense depth within a play space, 3-D could be used to create things like cover for players to hide behind when in combat. This borders on the ideas of virtual reality, but at this point it’s not crazy to say we are almost there. In fact, combining 3-D with motion sensing is just that, virtual reality.
There are so many places this technology could go and I have equally as many ideas to share, but for now I’m afraid we’ve reached the end of this little trip through the cosmos of my imagination. Perhaps one day this will be the new standard of gaming. For now, it’s simply food for thought. Or, if you’re a gamer or a techie, food to salivate over…
BY: Vincent Parisi
2011 is here and the entertainment community is wasting little time in kicking off the new year with some big announcements.
This week is the Consumer Electronics Show, CES, and Microsoft is in charge of warming up the crowd with a Keynote address taking place on Wednesday night. I bring this up because CES is usually when some major announcements about the future of technology are made, particularly the type of technology gamers are interested in; TV’s, phones, computers, and game consoles.
This generation of home consoles, dubbed Next-Gen consoles, introduced gamers to some revolutionary and, I’ll admit it, mind-blowing features: HD photorealistic graphics, motion capture, incredible physics engines, advanced online play, virtual marketplaces, and of course, achievements/trophies. Now that the Xbox 360 is a little over 5-years-old, with the PS3 and Wii only a year younger, it’s time to start wondering where gaming goes from here.
As far as the immediate future is concerned, you don’t need a crystal ball or tea leaves to guess. You see boys and girls, somewhere over the corporate rainbow there’s a well-dressed monkey in a suit who decided the future of everything should be 3-D. (Clearly he was unaware that, hey lookie, the world is already IN 3-D!) Over this past year, 3-D has assaulted consumers from every conceivable angle. 3-D cameras? Check. 3-D TV’s? Check Check. 3-D console games? Check Check (ugh) Checkaroo.
Most noticeable is probably the monsoon of 3-D movies that have stormed a theater near you throughout 2010, with filmmakers seemingly disinterested in the fact that some films have no business being in 3-D. Unfortunately, this trend doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
Getting back to video games, Nintendo is almost ready to release their latest portable system and, you guessed it, it boasts 3-D. The successor to the current DS, what makes the 3DS stand apart from everything else is that it provides a glasses-free stereoscopic 3-D presentation. This is the first step towards making 3-D a viable option because let’s face it, only a small number of 3DTV’s actually sold this past year. Frankly, nobody wants to wear those glasses at home (or in the theater.) Even gamers think they’re silly, and we spend the weekends waggling our Wiimotes and rocking out with plastic instruments. (You know, when we’re not out with friends and stuff.)
Both major consoles, the PS3 and XB360, are 3-D ready or 3-D capable, respectively. But there seems to be one small problem with the way the industry is headed: The consumer feedback is mostly negative. The majority of gamers don’t want 3-D. Most have already pulled a good chunk of their hair out because of all the recent focus on motion-control peripherals like Playstation’s Move and Microsoft’s Kinect. The industry is going through a huge shift this generation and most are unwilling to change alongside it.
Hopefully, this is where the 3DS will become a vital instrument in bettering the 3-D experience. Once glasses-free 3-D enters the home console space the idea will be easier to accept. But until then, gamers will have to go with the flow because 3-D isn’t going anywhere. That’s all for Part 1, but be sure to come back for Part 2 as we explore some potentially ground-breaking ideas that could change the interactivity of video games. Tune in next week. Same bat-time, same bat-channel!
Fifteen competitors from around the United States came to Orlando, Florida to find out who was going to be the ultimate gamer. Watch their interviews and ask yourself – could I be next?
“I couldn’t believe it was real.” Those sentiments were uttered by one of the finalists, and echoed by the rest of the competitors, in Orlando the evening before the Finals Competition began. Yet, here they were fifteen young adults competing for scholarship money.
At 9 am on a sunny Orlando day at the Disney Boardwalk resort the first 5 competitors were announced. Nervous but determined, they took their seats getting ready to compete for the top prize of $10,000 in scholarship money. After the dust settled, it was Eric Martina that claimed victory as the ultimate gamer.
We expected trash talking, we were expecting some intimidation, what we saw was anything but. The competitors, from all over the United States and different backgrounds, were a mixed bag of cliques normally found in High Schools – and they all got along. As in the John Hughes coming of age comedy “The Breakfast Club,” there was a brain, an athlete, a scene kid, a princess and a gamer…and also like the movie – they should not be defined in the simplest of terms. We saw young adults with aspirations and dreams of becoming a doctor, an aeronautic engineer and a film director -
we saw the future. Know something? It doesn’t look half bad, and it is worth the investment, it is worth the commitment, it is worth hard work. ScholarGamers will never claim to be THE solution to the educational funding crisis, just one of the solutions to the issue, and it is fun. As the weekend came to a close we had our ultimate gamer, a new king and plenty of new friends.
As I returned home from the weekend and wandered my way to the baggage claim, exhausted and just wanting some sleep, someone got my attention.
“Thank you, you guys did a good thing.” It was a parent of one of the competitors that just happened to be on the same flight as me. After exchanging some pleasantries, I went along my way. I couldn’t help remembering those words from the opening evening, “I couldn’t believe it was real.”
Enjoy the following video from our championship finals, it was a weekend to remember.
Aurora, IL’s Eric Martina Wins $10,000 Top Prize at ScholarGamers.com First-Ever Scholarship Competition
Holmdel, NJ (January 17, 2011)— Bringing his college dreams just a little closer, Eric Martina took home the $10,000 top award at ScholarGamers.com’s first scholarship competition. He faced-off in a nail biting series of online games against 14 other students at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort on January 14, earning a high score of 390,000. The finalists made the grade among 7,500 online competitors across the country and represent a broad cross-section of American students united in their desire to secure money for college through a nationwide video game competition.
Ultimate gamer Martina, known by screen name “etmartina,” is a senior at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, IL. He is interested in continuing his studies in a medical field at a Big 10 university. Erik Leiden from Avon Lake, OH won the second place $7500 scholarship with a score of 363,170, and Charles Coombs Esmail from Whitehall, PA nabbed the third place $5,000 award with a score of 271,700. The remaining 12 finalists each took home a scholarship of $500 as well as the memory of a very distinctive experience.
Launched in November 2010, ScholarGamers.com leverages American students’ favorite leisure activity – video games – for a chance to earn money to pay for college.
“It’s very gratifying to see our vision come to fruition and award the first of our scholarships, lightening the burden of educational financing for 15 students,” said Angelo Tartaro, founder and CEO, ScholarGamers.com. “But it’s even more satisfying to meet with this terrific group of students and parents face-to-face. Uniformly supportive of our mission, they are highly-motivated to invest in their educational futures, and we wish them all well.”
ScholarGamers.com next regular round began on January 1 and runs through February 28, awarding ten scholarships. Expanding its audience, any high school, trade school or college student aged 13 and up is eligible to register for the competition at ScholarGamers.com.
ScholarGamers.com scholarships are deposited into a 529 plan for each designated winner. Competitors are only eligible to win once. ScholarGamers.com plans to award more than 100 scholarships in 2011.
ScholarGamers.com is an innovative platform offering students, ages 13 and above, a chance to compete for educational scholarships through no-fee online games. Developed as a response to escalating educational costs, ScholarGamers.com’s secure environment fosters a sense of pride, accomplishment and fun. The site is a sponsor-supported initiative developed by Holmdel, NJ-based Internet Sport Games Associates. For more information, please visit http://www.scholargamers.com/about-us. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.