Tag Archives: videogames

Spy agencies attack game services similar to XBOX Live

The NSA could not get enough information from cable hacks and other means. So they decided to use a new technique, invading video games and spying on players.

 

The agencies, the documents show, have built mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network, which has more than 48 million players. Real-life agents have been deployed into virtual realms, from those Orc hordes in World of Warcraft to the human avatars of Second Life. There were attempts, too, to recruit potential informants from the games’ tech-friendly users.

Online gaming is big business, attracting tens of millions of users worldwide who inhabit their digital worlds as make-believe characters, living and competing with the avatars of other players. What the intelligence agencies feared, however, was that among these clans of elves and goblins, terrorists were lurking

 

 

 

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/09/nsa-spies-online-games-world-warcraft-second-life

BlindSide: A Game for Players Who Can’t See

Earlier this year, a minor injury to my right eye left me temporarily blind. I could do little but sit in bed and listen to audio books, until someone told me about the video game BlindSide, which doesn’t, in fact, contain any video. It is a meticulously designed, audio-driven thriller that is entirely devoid of graphics.

Built to entertain blind players as well as those who can see, the audio-only game’s accommodation of disabled gamers is a pleasant anomaly in the gaming industry, even though the number of gamers with disabilities is significant. The latest Americans with Disabilities report, which draws on 2010 census data, estimates that nearly fifty-seven million Americans, or roughly nineteen per cent of the population, have a disability, with over thirty-eight million suffering from what the report considers to be a “severe disability” of a physical, mental, or communicative nature. While nearly twenty million Americans “had difficulty with physical tasks relating to upper body function,” more than eight million over the age of fifteen have difficulty seeing and seven and a half million reported difficulty hearing. There is certainly overlap with the fifty-eight per cent of Americans who, according to the Electronic Software Association, play video games; the Able Gamers Foundation, a charity organization for disabled gamers, estimates that there are thirty-three million gamers with some kind of disability.

In the nineteen-eighties, gamers like John Dutton, a quadriplegic who learned to use the Atari 2600 joystick with his mouth and chin, drew attention to the need for hardware that disabled gamers could use. In 1988, Nintendo released the NES Hands Free, a video-game controller designed explicitly for disabled gamers, which was worn like a vest. It had a chin stick for movement and a tube that players breathed in and out of to control the “A” and “B” buttons. In the nineties, attention shifted to making in-game control schemes more accessible, leading to releases like Shades of Doom, a first-person shooter for visually impaired gamers. More recently, the Call of Duty franchise, inspired by the quadriplegic professional gamer Randy Fitzgerald, introduced a special button layout for disabled gamers which makes it easier to aim, while the Able Gamers Foundation has published a guide that shows developers how to design more accessible products.

via BlindSide: A Game for Players Who Can’t See : The New Yorker.

No girls allowed: Unraveling the story behind the stereotype of video games being for boys.

Four-year-old Riley Maida stands in a toy aisle of a department store in Newburgh, N.Y. The backdrop is pink. The shelves behind her are stacked with plastic babies in pink onesies. To her left are hair-and-makeup dolls with exaggerated heads attached to truncated shoulders. The shelf above has rows of little dresses and pastel pink slippers. The shelf above that, more pink dolls in more pink dresses.

In the next aisle, there\’s a distinct absence of pink. This is the \”boys aisle.\” Lined with Nerf guns, G.I. Joes, superhero figures, building blocks and toy cars, it has a diverse color palette of blues, greens, oranges and reds.

Maida looks down the aisle of pink. Arms akimbo, the cherubic 4-year-old with brunette bangs furrows her brow. She looks into her father\’s camera and begins a rant that will go viral on the internet and make its way onto television networks like CNN and ABC.

\”Would it be fair for all the girls to buy princesses and the boys to buy superheroes?\” she says, smacking her right hand to her head in exasperation. \”Girls want superheroes AND the boys want superheroes!\”

She points her index finger and shakes her hand at the pink boxes around her. Occasionally jumbling her words while giving her impassioned speech, she questions why boys and girls need separate toy aisles and why some toys are designated for one gender and not the other. Boys and girls can both like pink, she says. Why do companies have to make boys and girls think that they can only like certain things? Palm open, she hits her right hand on the top of one of the boxes to emphasize her point.

A few aisles over, in the video game section, there is a similar marketing story that Maida has yet to learn. Unlike in the toy aisles, she won\’t find an expansive selection of video games for boys and an equally expansive selection for girls. Most \”girls\’ sections,\” if they exist, are lined with fitness titles and Ubisoft\’s simplified career simulation series, Imagine, which lets players pretend they\’re doctors, teachers, gymnasts and babysitters.

As for the boys section — there isn\’t one. Everything else is for boys.

via No girls allowed | Polygon.

A Video Game Improves Behavioral Outcomes in Adolescents and Young Adults With Cancer

OBJECTIVE. Suboptimal adherence to self-administered medications is a common problem. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a video-game intervention for improving adherence and other behavioral outcomes for adolescents and young adults with malignancies including acute leukemia, lymphoma, and soft-tissue sarcoma…

CONCLUSIONS. The video-game intervention significantly improved treatment adherence and indicators of cancer-related self-efficacy and knowledge in adolescents and young adults who were undergoing cancer therapy. The findings support current efforts to develop effective video-game interventions for education and training in health care.

Journal of the American Society of Pediatrics

Videogame Champ, Past His Prime At 28, Grooms Next Screen Jocks

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LONDON—At the ripe old age of 28, Patrik Sättermon considers himself over the hill as a professional videogame player.

“For some games you have to be super fast, and at 24 or 25 you’re past it, you’re a veteran,” says Mr. Sättermon, a former world champion in the game Counter Strike. “You don’t realize your reflexes start to disappear, but you see it on the scoreboard.”

So Mr. Sättermon—a Swede who is the Chief Gaming Officer at Fnatic, one of the world’s top pro gaming teams—is out to groom the next generation of screen jocks.

At the Fnatic Academy he runs in London, he accepts just six teens a year. Eventually, he hopes they will become not just professional players, but stars.

“The peak age for a gamer will be 18 or 19,” says Mr. Sättermon. “That’s when you have the right balance between reflexes, the ability to understand the game and also enough maturity.”

The teen recruits must eventually leave their families to live with their teams, spending 12 hours a day in training and up to 250 days competing and traveling away from home. The pro gaming teams pay for players’ travel, gear and accommodation, as well as a base salary and performance related bonuses. In return, the team takes a cut of winnings. Top players can ultimately take home $18,000 a month or more.

via Videogame Champ, Past His Prime At 28, Grooms Next Screen Jocks – WSJ.com.

How Evil Should a Video Game Allow You to Be?

HOW EVIL SHOULD A VIDEO GAME ALLOW YOU TO BE?

POSTED BY SIMON PARKIN

It was Vladimir Nabokov’s wife, Véra who rescued the manuscript of “Lolita” from a back-yard incinerator at Cornell University. Beset by doubt over the book’s subject matter, Nabokov hoped to burn the novel before it reached the public. Likewise, the American literary critic George Steiner had second thoughts on the publication of his 1981 novella, “The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.,” in which Adolf Hitler survives the Second World War and is given the opportunity to defend his crimes. Steiner had the book recalled and pulped.

The question of whether—or to what extent—literature should allow readers into the minds of terrorists, murderers, and abusers both fictional and historical is one that continues to trouble authors. But if video-game creators share such qualms it hasn’t stopped the production, in the course of the past forty years, of games that ask players to march in the boots of legions of despots and criminals, both petty and major. Long-time video-game players are guilty of innumerable virtual crimes, from minor indiscretions like jaywalking, in Atari’s Frogger, and smoking indoors, in Metal Gear Solid, to more serious outrages like driving under the influence, in Grand Theft Auto; gunning down an airport filled with civilians, in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II; and full-scale genocide in Sid Meier’s Civilization series.

A 2011 Supreme Court ruling recognized that video games, like other forms of art and entertainment, are protected by the First Amendment as a form of speech. “For better or worse,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the decision, “our society has long regarded many depictions of killing and maiming as suitable features of popular entertainment.” As such, Rockstar, the developer of Grand Theft Auto V, the latest entry in the long-running series, which was released today, could include a prolonged interactive depiction of torture without fear of censorship. Nevertheless, the “24”-esque scene, which requires players to rotate the game controller’s sticks in order to tug out the victim’s teeth with pliers, has inspired debate—not only over its artistic merit but also over whether such distressing interactions have any place in video games.

via Grand Theft Auto V’s Torture Scene: How Evil Should a Video Game Allow You to Be? : The New Yorker.

The Last of Us: Anti-violent video game?

“The Last of Us” is a video game, a work of interactive art, and a question will arise in the back of your mind while playing, “What would I do in this situation?” and the answer will make you feel emotions no other art form can elicit.

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic United States, 20 years after the fall of mankind, in a world nature has mostly reclaimed, where resources are few and trust is scarce. Hope is the commodity in shortest supply. Most everyone has given up on rebuilding the old world. This is just how it is now. Every encounter with strangers pings that most primal of judgments under uncertainty: “Is this a potential friend or foe?”

Familiar? Sure, it’s a theme being explored all over in fiction. Something in the zeitgeist has us fretting over these things again, but in a game you have the opportunity to actually test yourself in a virtual reality, to see what you would do when the stakes are as high as possible. Would you trust others? Would you help strangers? Would you kill to survive?

In addition, “The Last of Us” explores something the gaming world calls ludonarrative dissonance. Many modern games have detailed stories with great writing and well-acted scenes interspersed between what amounts to bursts of mass murder. It can make a player feel like his or her agency in the world has been stolen by the storyteller, that the characters you are asked to portray live in two realities, one you control and one you do not. This can feel really off-putting when the characters are jaunty, smarmy, and noble in the cutscenes, but then you are asked to use those people to do terrible things. In an effort to solve this problem, Naughty Dog, the developers of “The Last of Us”, crafted an experience where you and the character feel justified when pushed to do harm, but afterward you, the gamer, feel disgusted with yourself and horrified by the power of the situation to change your behavior and shift your moral center. You find yourself quickly learning to avoid violence – a behavior I was astonished to see evoked in myself inside a game world, and was thrilled to experience. That’s something you won’t get watching “Breaking Bad.”

via YANSS Podcast – Episode Eight « You Are Not So Smart.