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Friday, January 14, 2021

You’ve got nothing else to do while draining your weasel, so Sega and its play-urinals ask, why not make a game out of your flow?

According to Sega and Akihabara News, the four types of video games on the Toylets include:

- “Mannekin Pis”: a simple measurement of the urine produced.
- “Graffiti Eraser”: where you move your urine back and forth to remove paint
- “The North Wind and Her”: a game where you play the wind, trying to blow a girl’s skirt up. The stronger you pee, the stronger the wind blows.
- “Milk from Nose”: A variation on sumo wrestling, where you try to knock the other player out of the ring using the strength of your urine flow (shown as milk spraying from your nose). The record of your pee is saved and used as the opponent for the next player. So the game is sort of multiplayer. Toylets even lets you save information onto a USB drive! I fear the MMORPG that will arise from this.

In a way, the concept of actively standing up while videogaming evokes the old coin-op machines of arcades yore. Instead of being hunched over a plastic/wooden cabinet while manipulating the joystick, you’re now leaning into a porcelain basin while… well, manipulating your “joystick”.

This bathroom-breaking action is, as you might expect, in Japan only. For now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/14/2011 08:52pm
Category: Society, Videogames
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Sunday, January 09, 2021

in spirit
I’ve already latched onto a new iPhone-borne time-waster for the new year: “Spirits”.

This little low-impact game app will look familiar to anyone acquainted with “Lemmings”. The premise is pretty much the same as that old PC-era classic: You shepherd to safety groups of little beasties who have one-track minds. Notably, the “dig” command is in the modern game, attesting to the “Lemmings” heritage. (Maybe these “spirits” are the ghosts of departed lemmings, with their hive-mind mentality carrying over to the afterworld?)

I’m not generally a fan of puzzle-type mobile games, but this one works for me. The nice graphics and animation help with that, along with the music (although half the time I play it while listening to my own iPod playlist). I’ve already killed off big chunks of dead time between appointments with this gamelet, and happily so. It’s almost worth the battery drain that leaves the iPhone almost fully discharged by the end of the day…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/09/2021 11:10pm
Category: Videogames, iPhone
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Monday, November 01, 2021

I was never a fan of Nintendo’s Super NES console.

But I did like There Will Be Blood quite a lot.

Therefore, I guess I’d have grudgingly appreciated an improbable 16-bit videogame adaptation of the epic historical drama:

A bravura pixelized re-creation of the culminating bowling-pin murder scene. I’m sure Daniel Day-Lewis gladly would have compromised his artistic integrity to make this cartridge-based iteration happen! Although I’d have liked to have seen more milkshake action.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/01/2021 11:22pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Saturday, October 09, 2021

This TV commercial for Electronic Arts Sports title “NHL 11″ has been out for at least a month now, so I’m surprised no one else has mentioned the questionable imagery at the 0:17 second mark:

That moment features a pixelated headshot-hit against the boards on Chicago Blackhawks player Number 88, who would be Patrick Kane. This, despite the ongoing hand-wringing over concussion injuries in hockey.

I would think that the National Hockey League would raise some red flags over this little detail, in the marketing of a premier piece of merchandise connected with the game. Granted, it’s not like the EA commercial lingers on the hit; but still, it’s a prominent highlight in the ad. Why would they include it, given the sensitivity on the issue? A solid body-check in its place would be just as effective in selling the videogame.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/09/2021 07:30pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Hockey, Videogames
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Monday, October 04, 2021

we're in the playoffs!
Pucking Hilarious appears to be on hiatus. I’m hoping that they’ll revive themselves this week, with the start of the 2010-11 National Hockey League season, so that I can buy this t-shirt, with the oldschool videogame hockey representation pictured above.

For those who weren’t rockin’ their Sega Genesis twenty years ago, that “Make Somebody’s Head Bleed” motto comes straight out of Swingers:

Trent: I wish they still had fights in this game so I could bitch-slap Wayne.
Mike: What? They don’t have fighting anymore?
Trent: Doesn’t that suck?
Mike: Why’d they get rid of the fighting? It was the best part of the old version.
Sue: I think kids were hittin’ each other or somethin’, man.
Trent: Yeah but you know what, Mike? You can make their heads bleed in this one.
Mike: Make somebody’s head bleed.
Sue: No man, we’re in the playoffs.

And furthermore:

Trent: I’m gonna make Gretzky’s head bleed for super fan 99 over here.

Indeed, the head-bleeder pictured above, from NHL ’93 (in fact, not NHL ’94), is Wayne Gretzky, as you can tell from those grey-and-black Los Angeles Kings 16-bit colors. And his assailant would be Jeremy Roenick, then of the Chicago Blackhawks. Ah, the memories.

And yes, I logged plenty of time on EA‘s early ’90s hockey simulations. As did my college dormmates. We had far too much fun competing against each other for hours on end with that old cartridge-borne sports game, laughably primitive by today’s standards but engrossing nonetheless. I recall that Murray “The Crave” Craven (that nickname was wholly invented in our gameroom, having no relevance in real life) was a particular favorite player in our self-contained little league…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/04/2021 10:39pm
Category: College Years, Hockey, Movies, Videogames
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Sunday, September 19, 2021

retro no-mo
I’m really sorry that I never learned of Fred Bobrow’s Retro Arcade Museum, an all-you-can-play oldschool videogame emporium in Beacon (right across the Hudson from my old hometown), before it got shut down:

Whatever the case, the City Council this month passed a new ordinance allowing arcades, under certain circumstances. It was too late.

Mr. Bobrow says that after being closed for three months and having to repay deposits from customers, he is now broke. He is selling his house and liquidating his collection. The storefront is now one more vacant one, and you can bet that Beacon won’t find a similar attraction to replace the museum.

Not that you have to venture far around here to get your vintage coin-op fix. There’s Chinatown Fair and Barcade Brooklyn, to name just a couple of reliable repositories of old games. But still, I’d like to have checked out this upstate attraction just once.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/19/2010 05:53pm
Category: New Yorkin', Videogames
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Thursday, August 19, 2021

scream, robotron, scream!
I suppose this is an inflection point in entertainment media: Hollywood’s favorite stock-sound effect, The Wilhelm Scream, is increasingly finding its way into today’s videogames.

Next thing you know, the gaming studios will get even more cinematic and start using the same newspaper prop over and over.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/19/2010 11:01pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Thursday, August 05, 2021

I’m well enough removed from gaming circles that, while I’m aware of the Halo franchise, I don’t know all too much about it.

That’s why a lovingly-crafted Atari 2600 rendition would be right up my alley:

Ed Fries, former vice president of Microsoft’s Game Publishing Division, programmed an old-school version of the beloved game that features blocky graphics, deliberately basic sound effects, and simplified movements. And yet it’s still recognizable as “Halo.”

The game, called “Halo 2600,” made its debut at the recent Classic Gaming Expo, where cartridges (nice!) of the game were given away to lucky recipients.

And it’s playable online, on the above link. It’s addictive fun in a low-impact way. Sort of reminiscent of Robotron 2084, with a far less manic pace and a lack of rapid-fire.

I do think that a name change is in order — after all, those 8-bit pixels can’t really form a cleanly-circular halo shape, can they?

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/05/2021 10:52pm
Category: Creative, Videogames
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Friday, July 16, 2021

life and the game
How much narrative can you discern from even the most thought-out gaming franchises? That’s what “Theater of the Arcade” in Brooklyn aims to find out, in the form of stage-play vignettes:

What if Pac-Man is really a gluttonous German burgher out to gorge himself while dodging the ghosts of those he has so callously wronged, à la Dickens?

What if the pilots in Asteroids are merely profane technicians existentially trapped within a corporation that knows nothing more than to send them into the void to shoot rocks, until they become smaller rocks and smaller rocks, until they become nothing?

I liken this in-depth re-imagination to the box art on the old Atari 2600 videogames from the 1970s and ’80s: Visualizations of the game action that were far more fully-formed than the primitive pixelation that the game cartridges actually contained. In fact, those box-art interpretations often bore only marginal resemblance to their game themes. Funny how decades later, these stage productions play off the same narrative-thin videogaming base..

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/16/2010 05:18pm
Category: Creative, Videogames
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Saturday, May 01, 2021

On the one hand, there’s the customary disdain over the Boy Scouts of America’s newly-minted merit badges (or belt loops, or pins, or whatever) for videogaming prowess.

Take that disdain, re-channel it along gender lines, and you get a new complaint: Why don’t Girl Scouts get a shot at videogame achievements?

Either way, it’s trading jamborees for joysticks. Why commune with nature when you can immerse yourself in a virtual pixelated setting, and get rewarded all the same?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/01/2021 02:05pm
Category: Society, Videogames
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Friday, April 09, 2021

block-rockin' beatdown
In the grand tradition of Hollywood’s spectacularly-destructive edifice envy, New York City gets an 8-bit beatdown in Patrick Jean’s short film, “Pixels”:

The old coin-op characters never looked so good. I particularly liked how the Tetris blocks conspired to drop-wedge onto the skyscrapers, destroying them floor-by-floor via the game’s horizontal-row completion. My second-favorite is the Breakout paddle pulverizing the Brooklyn Bridge, appropriately brick-by-brick. And I was glad to see representation by Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders in this playful carnage. Bonus image: A flyby view, about 1:21 in, of the Atari logo on one of the buildings in the Manhattan skyline.

I just wanna know who was holding the joystick while this videogamed assault was running wild. And what his/her final high score was.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 04/09/2021 10:36am
Category: Creative, Movies, New Yorkin', Videogames
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Friday, March 26, 2021

feathers fly
A new so-bad-it’s-good cult classic is born, out of last year’s Sundance Film Festival of all places. Birdemic: Shock and Terror is the realization of one man’s cinematic vision, bad spelling and all:

Evan Husney, who now works for the independent distributor Severin Films, was also at Sundance in 2009, where he spotted [director James] Nguyen driving a beat-up sport utility vehicle decorated with a prop eagle and fake blood, and blaring bird noises from its stereo.

“On the side of his car,” Mr. Husney said, “he had spelled the name of his own movie wrong. He had spelled it ‘Bidemic,’ without the R.”

Intrigued, Mr. Husney met Mr. Nguyen at a sparsely attended “Birdemic” screening. The movie, Mr. Husney said, looked “like a Super Nintendo game,” adding, “It was, like, the funniest thing I had ever seen in my entire life.”

I keep flubbing the film title myself, thinking it’s “Birdicide”; considering the backstory, I guess I shouldn’t feel bad about mangling it. Maybe I subconsciously think that “Birdicide” is more suggestive of violence, and less avian-flu redolent, than “Birdemic”. Or “Bidemic”, for that matter (which sounds like some kind of disease afflicting, or afflicted by, Vice President Joe Biden).

As for the videogame comparison, I’ll go a couple of steps further back in time: The swooping buzzards pictured above remind me less of Hitchcock’s The Birds and more of the old birds of prey from the coin-op classic “Phoenix”. Only less threatening. Even 8-bit arcade fare probably trumps the not-so-special effects in this flick.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/26/2010 01:48pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Saturday, March 20, 2021

Since it’s a given that most kids nowadays have grown up playing multiplayer/multilevel videogames, maybe it should also be a given that they should approach college coursework within the same framework:

Students at several of Indiana University’s game design courses begin their class with zero “experience points,” which corresponds to an F grade. Instead of completing presentations, they’ll perform “quests;” sitting exams becomes “fighting monsters;” and handing in assignments becomes “crafting.” Students even team up into “guilds” to tackle group projects. Setting assessments in the context of video game achievements helps students get motivated, according to the courses’ coordinator, Indiana University’s Lee Sheldon.

What’s the equivalent of getting past the boss stage — outwitting the teaching assistant? I think they should go oldschool and give students three lives to conquer the curriculum. And if you fail? The professor announces your flunk-out by playing the Pac-Man death sound effect.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/20/2010 08:12pm
Category: Business, Society, Videogames
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Sunday, January 31, 2021

While it’s probably true that “there’s an app for that” — no matter what “that” calls for — it’s not surprising that most people stick to a tried-and-true handful of favorite icons:

The average iPhone or iPod Touch owner uses 5 to 10 apps regularly, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends. This despite the surfeit of available apps: some 140,000 and counting… The next generation of gadget users might prove different, but for now it is clear that people prefer fewer choices, and that they gravitate consistently toward the same small number of things that they like. Owners of iPhones are no different from cable TV subscribers with hundreds of channels to choose from who end up watching the same half-dozen.

For me and my iTouch, I figure I’m on the low end of that estimate. I play two games almost exclusively (although I’ve just picked up a new one, Bird Strike, that I anticipate will keep me occupied for a while), use Twitterrific pretty regularly, and fire up WifiTrak most days. Then there are the apps that come pre-loaded: I use Mail, Safari, Weather, Clock, and Notes all the time — but I’m not sure they count in this context.

When it comes to acquiring new apps, I do have a self-imposed restriction that keeps the additions low: They must be able to run while simultaneously allowing the iTouch’s music library to play uninterrupted. You’d think that would be a no-brainer, yet it seems like most apps — particularly games — don’t work this way. But since my primary use of the device is to listen to music, it’s a dealbreaker. Therefore, that simple requirement keeps me from overloading on page after page of apps.

But it’s nice to know that extra doo-dads are only a short download away. Even if I’ll never try, or even see, 99 percent of them.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/31/2010 10:11pm
Category: Videogames, iPhone, iPod
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Thursday, January 21, 2021

I have to say, I spend an inordinate amount of time playing both Sumo! and Saucelifter! on my iTouch. While listening to music, usually — multi-tasking in everything, of course.

The games can’t be much more different, in either theme or mechanics. Sumo! is strictly a tap-and-count board game, nicely ported for touchscreen but hardly reliant upon the iPhone/iTouch interface. Saucelifter!, on the other hand, makes good use of the accelerometer for navigation, to complement the touch controls for action. You’re body-slamming belly-to-belly in one, and laser-blasting military armor in the other — all for fun.

If I’m going to endorse any iTunes App, I guess these two would have to be the ones. Neither is free, but considering how many hours I’ve spent playing them, I’d say they’re well worth the purchase price.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/21/2010 11:44pm
Category: Videogames, iPod
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Saturday, January 09, 2021

There’s a certain amount of irony in Mark Hamill having outgrown his Star Wars typecasting by establishing himself as a voiceover actor — and then, despite ample opportunities in the gaming industry, never applying those skills into a reprise of the Luke Skywalker role:

Hamill’s credited with a bevy of vocal performances in non-Star Wars games, most notably as The Joker in last year’s best-seller Batman: Arkham Asylum, but revealed why he’s never played Luke in a recent interview with PC Zone magazine.

“When I played Luke from 1977 to 1983, games were in their infancy,” Hamill told PC Zone. “I talked about turning a page and starting a new chapter. Those movies had a beginning, middle and end, and everyone sort of moved on… I don’t really know how to answer that, because I’ve never been asked to do it. That’s fine, though.”

“If you’re playing Luke the way he was in the films — from his late teens to mid-20s — I’ve outgrown the role. In the story, Luke is so boy-next-door farm boy, it’s like Dorothy in Oz. All the other characters that surround him are fantastic.”

“Outgrown the role”? We’re talking vocals, not visuals. Hamill’s voice hasn’t changed that much over the years — he still sounds like Luke Skywalker. I’d think the promotional opportunities in having the original Luke voicing a CGI Luke would be huge.

And it just happens to dovetail that way, given Hamill’s second career. It’s not like Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher would be good fits to do videogame voiceover work for their characters, even if they could be persuaded to do it. But since Hamill’s already working in the same proximity, it’s a natural.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/09/2021 04:48pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Sunday, December 06, 2021

poppin'I was unaware of the indirect lineage between Popeye and Mario:

[Nintendo game designer Shigeru] Miyamoto: So I sketched out a few ideas for games using Popeye. At that point, Yokoi-san was good enough to bring these ideas to the President’s attention and in the end one of the ideas received official approval… And that’s how “Donkey Kong” came about.

[Nintendo president Satoru] Iwata: But originally it was going to be a Popeye game.

Miyamoto: That’s right. But while I can’t recall exactly why it was, we were unable to use Popeye in that title. It really felt like the ladder had been pulled out from under us, so to speak… Anyway, at the time we were at a loss as to how to proceed. Then we thought: “Why not come up with our own original character?”

Iwata: So basically “Donkey Kong” and Mario came about once the ladder had been pulled out from beneath you.

Miyamoto: Exactly.

Further backstory: During the early ’80s, Nintendo was the Japanese market licensee for Popeye the Sailor Man merchandise. That’s how Miyamoto came to use the character in his videogame mockups for the then-nascent videogame division of the company.

The further irony is that Nintendo did, indeed, put out a “Popeye” coin-op game not long after the success of “Donkey Kong”. I remember playing that game as a kid, even though it was pretty hard to find it in most arcades.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/06/2021 04:08pm
Category: Pop Culture, Videogames
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Thursday, December 03, 2021

When I bought a new videogame for my iTouch yesterday, I didn’t give much thought to whether or not the game’s soundtrack was also available for purchase. (In fact, one of my persistent gripes about App Store games is that too few of them allow you the option to override in-game music in favor of letting the iPod music play; but that’s something for another post…)

But indeed, the oddly-named hovercraft-racing game “Ground Effect” comes with an embedded iTunes link to buy the theme music. Here’s the philosophy behind the move:

Diefenbach, a really cool Danish indie band, have allowed us to feature an instrumental version of one of their most amazing tracks “A Rock in a Pond” as the soundtrack for “Ground Effect” from their album “Dark Spinner”.

[App developer Glenn Corpes] was really excited as an indie developer about the prospect of teaming up with an indie band; much has been made recently about the cross-promotional possibilities and it makes sense that if gamers habitually listen to music on their iPhones it would be shame not to use the opportunity as a game developer to introduce them to great bands they might otherwise have not been exposed to.

That last part is the heart of it: Providing an opportunity for exposure on the audience’s preferred platform. This is the same concept as what’s driving music sales via “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” console interfaces. You take your wares where the action is.

I’d be surprised if there aren’t more apps that meld this experience — not just games either. The ability to push sales of multimedia elements within an app could soon be a commonplace and expected aspect of iPhone/iPod interaction.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/03/2021 10:53pm
Category: Business, Pop Culture, Videogames, iPod
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Friday, November 20, 2021

Given that I’ve previously bitched about the cluelessness of the typical crossword-puzzle clues, imagine my surprise to come across this peculiar one this morning:

44-ACROSS: Game my dad refused to install on our computer in 1993 because it took up 40 megabytes

The answer, of course, is the classic first-person shooter (and crossword-friendly title) “Doom”. The morning wordgrid is probably the last place you’d expect to run across mention of a videogame about blasting demonic hellspawn.

The above clue probably seems super-long (not to mention vaguely whiny) for the confines of a newspaper crossword section. In fact, I was doing the puzzle on my iTouch. The Crosswords app does help pass the time on the train. Although the tunnel views this morning only accentuated the unexpected “Doom” scenario…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/20/2009 09:11am
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture, Videogames, Wordsmithing
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Monday, November 02, 2021

Only a couple of years ago, Disney went to unusual measures to acquire the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: Essentially trading sportscaster Al Michaels and a bunch of sports-related airtime in exchange for the first animated character Walt Disney himself originated, thus consolidating the legendary animator’s creative heritage.

Now, we’re seeing that piece of heritage put to work. Epic Mickey is a wave-making videogame, featuring a less-than-squeaky-clean Mickey Mouse adventuring in a dark cartoon underworld. And he’s got company:

The game opens with a six-minute cartoon that shows Mickey being kidnapped into the Cartoon Wasteland, a world that’s home to all of Disney’s rejected creativity. Strapped to a table facing a variety of threats, he’s soon freed by a cartoon rabbit who quickly runs away.

That rabbit, Oswald, was actually Walt Disney’s first cartoon creation — one he lost the rights to in 1928, when the financier and distributor of his films fired him. (Disney recently reacquired those rights, in part because of the pivotal role Oswald plays in this game.)

All that maneuvering to reel in a wayward Disney rabbit, just so an edgier, pixelated Mickey could see the light of day? Suddenly I have more respect for The Walt Disney Company, as a content-driven concern.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/02/2021 11:11pm
Category: Business, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Saturday, October 24, 2021

block-by-blockNothing says “girly geek” quite like this homemade dress, no doubt inspired by countless hours of Tetris-playing. Frenetic block-dropping never looked so fashionable!

(Via dustbury, who I’m betting saw the same tweet that I did on this)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/24/2009 07:20pm
Category: Creative, Fashion, Videogames, Women
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