Monday, February 6, 2012

Top 5 Video Games of 2011

Video Games: Thomas Dunn continues a look back at 2011's best, with the top 5 Games of last year.

2011 has been something of an odd year for armchair sportsmen, a signal of the growing stagnation in the market. Traditional release dates were met all over; Rockstar released a late-spring blockbuster, Rocksteady swooped down in the autumn to earn its crown, and Activision ensured that another COD rehash entered the arena at the eleventh hour to make us forget all the good that had come before. That said, within this growing routine lay a number of innovative titles – most of them sequels, no less – that as a result largely fail to offer any succor to either side of the ongoing debate with regard to originality in gaming. Sequels, it seems, can pioneer the market as well as condemn it. 

And so another year rolls on. As said, there were a number of fantastic titles this year, not least for the Nintendo 3DS, which, after the shakiest of starts, found its feet with a few top-notch N64 remakes, as well as two all-new Mario titles. Likewise, the die-hard indie corner in PC gaming continues to quietly thrive with the OCD-friendly offerings of both Minecraft and Terraria. However, the top five titles of the year proved that engrossing, intelligent gameplay can still dominate the mainstream market. Even if Bobby Kotick would like you to think otherwise, gyuck!  Here they are...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA/PIPA Resistance Day...What is it?

Tech: Some background on SOPA and the reasons behind this day of internet blackouts

Today, Dreaming Genius was blacked out and unavailable as part of a day of internet blackouts in protest of the SOPA and PIPA bills. The Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA.

Here's some more info on the bills (including a great video) and what you can do to stop them...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Battle of the War Games

Video Games: Nate LaRico debates which is the better game, BF3 or MW3 

While playing Davamand Peak on Battlefield 3 the other day I found myself trekking through the hillside with my trusty EMR sniper rifle in hand. After setting up on over-watch I peered down my 12x ballistic scope and found a damaged APC that had foolishly clambered over some magnetic mines and was in distress. As the crew contained within started to evacuate, shots echoed over the countryside as each member of the once secure APC team became nothing more than a crimson stain on reinforced steel. This is the picture of a battlefield.

Waiting for the right moment to get my care package, I stow away in the back corner by some caves. The wind whipped ground swirls with smoke from my beacon as a care package is dropped from the helicopter overhead. Having put in work earning the kills to acquire this package I rush to pick it up. Tracer rounds flash by as gunfire surrounds me. I return fire only to be met with no effect. While utilizing a built in system flaw, the other team has seen to it that they are all wearing multiple armored vests. I abandon hopes of acquiring my package, preferring life over material things. But no life is to be had as a bunny hopping heavily armored shotgun totting assailant did the unthinkable, Halo-hop shotgun. Since shotgun damage is based on a spread pattern, it has become common practice in the Call of Duty games to jump while shooting your shotgun. This gives maximum effect to the weapon spread and centers the most damage on your torso and head. This is the picture of modern warfare.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Facebook's Timeline, A Welcome Change or Perpetual Annoyance?

If you’re on Facebook, chances are there are features you love on the site, and features you hate.  Prepare to be shaken from normalcy once again, as Facebook readies their launch of Timeline in the coming weeks.  Dreaming Genius co-editor Tony Nunes asks; Is this the end of Facebook, or a new chapter in our online lives?   

Just last month the web was ablaze with complaints about the newest changes on Facebook.  Wall posts in the tens-of-thousands reprimanded the company for changes many felt were limiting the design of the Facebook newsfeed, a feature that millions rely on for sharing with friends and family on a daily basis.  The complaints were so rampant even, that they ironically devised a worldwide trending topic on social networking rival, Twitter.  These complaints resulted from a minor change, which allowed Facebook to single out “top” stories from your friends and automatically place them atop your feed.  It’s an idea Facebook describes as their version of a newspaper headline, choosing the story that they think you would most like to see based on the algorithms of your use.  They've also launched a ticker of real time updates from your friends activities shown on the right hand side of the feed.

You would of thought Facebook had became Holocaust deniers with all the embattled cries people unleashed onto the world wide web.  Of course, most of those cries were posted on Facebook, because, after all, without Facebook most of us have nowhere to complain about Facebook.  It’s this fact that’s most striking about the great Facebook debates that seem to pop up from time to time.  As of last month, Facebook reports that  they cater to “more than 800 million active users,” over “50%” of which “log on to Facebook on any given day.”  It’s easy to complain about change, but when you look at how much technological change is occurring each year and at such a rapid pace, isn’t it heedless to be so increasingly adverse?  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Joystick Cinema; The "Art" of the Video Game

Thomas Dunn on the much debated assertion that Video Games are art.

It isn’t exactly groundbreaking news that Roger Ebert is a pretty outspoken kind of guy, and sometimes his opinions can be more than a little controversial. Whilst I personally agree with him wholeheartedly on the state of contemporary 3D cinema as just the latest in distracting gimmickry, his argument last year that video games cannot be labelled as art seemed to offer a rather outdated model as to why this was the case. 

Essentially, video games merely consist of moving from objective A to B he says, an exercise in skill and repetition that cannot allow for a full bodied narrative in the way that good cinema might – it’s too distracting, too distanced, too encumbered by its own mechanics. You might initially respond as I did, thinking “huh, maybe in Super Mario Bros. twenty five years ago – but what about Grand Theft Auto, or Monkey Island, Shadow of the Colossus etc., etc.” But, in a way he seemingly didn’t realise, Ebert’s right; videogames are essentially about a direct manipulation of events along a delineated pattern, no matter how “open world” or falsely “free choice” it may advertise itself as. There is a path, or a series of paths that lead from a start-point to an end-point, already pre-determined, that one must move through by playing the game (I am exclusively talking about single-player narrative gaming here, or else multiplayer gaming strongly rooted in a thematic campaign. Competitive gaming that sells itself on skill over a personal experience, as in the cases of Street Fighter or Dance Dance Revolution, is largely a separate breed). But why should this stop videogames from being labelled as “art”?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Zynga Empire: Fair Game?

Kit Marsters on the potentially expensive lure of social gaming.

There’s a lot of money to be made in the social gaming industry. Take Zynga - developers of Farmville and Mafia Wars - for example. They’re rich. Not stinking filthy Microsoft or Apple style rich, but they’re making a lot of money. Last year, Zynga made nearly $600 million in revenue, with $90 million in profits. For 2011 the company expects revenue to reach $1.8 billion, $630 million of which is expected to be profit. Not bad when their games are supposed to be free to play.

So how do companies like Zynga make their fortune? The answer is simple: they understand their customers, and they know what makes them tick. If the players feel invested in a game, they are more likely to invest in it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Could The Google+ Circles Prove Vicious For Democracy?

Dreaming Genius co-editor Steven Maclean wonders if Google might be evil after all.

A quick look at the history books shows social networking is a volatile business. Friends Reunited, the site that linked lost acquaintances by resurrecting old school registers online, now resembles a barren wasteland in a dark corner of the Internet. Its successor, the one-time phenomenon that was Myspace, continues to stutter towards the same fate, having gone through two takeovers (which resulted in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp losing around £300m) and a series of rebranding attempts, none of which could halt its decline. But Facebook, with its 750 million users, is surely too big to join its predecessors in online limbo, isn't it?
The demise of each social networking trailblazer has been helped along by the emergence of the next, sleeker platform building on the discoveries made by those that came before. With that in mind, Mark Zuckerberg could be forgiven for feeling a little queasy about the launch of online giant Google's latest project: Google+.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Dream Landing: What The Shuttle's Retirement Means For The Future Of Spaceflight

As the Space Shuttle program winds down, Dreaming Genius co-editor Tony Nunes looks back and forwards at the dream of spaceflight.

Every kid has a dream.  Every kid needs a dream.  At 9-years-old I was doodling space shuttles in my notebooks, clutching a matchbox toy shuttle in my pocket, and obsessing over coffee table book pictorials on the Apollo program.  While loads of kids my age were playing with Return of the Jedi action figures and pretending to fly the Millennium Falcon, I dreamt of space flight in the practical sense.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Star Wars geek tenfold, but when it came to that ideal of true spaceflight, I wanted nothing more than to become an astronaut. 

It’s for this reason that I’ve found the past few weeks, and the looming months to be a particularly bittersweet time for space-nuts like myself.  Early Tuesday morning Space Shuttle Endeavour landed at Kennedy Space Center, ending the second to last Space Shuttle mission before the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in July.  As Endeavour prepped its descent, Space Shuttle Atlantis made the long and slow trip towards the launch pad, rolling out what will be the final Shuttle mission on July 8th, NASA’s last planned manned spaceflight for the foreseeable future.  I find this to be a sad ending.  Granted, I never actually became an astronaut, but the mere dream of becoming one filled my childhood with such wonder, hope and amazement.  The Space Shuttle represented something mythical yet attainable, a dream laced with actual hope and achievability.  

I mentioned that I dreamt of spaceflight in the practical sense, and can understand that to some, there is no practical sense in spending billions of dollars to launch men into orbit.  I disagree, but that is a debate for another time.  Now is the time to look back at the Space Shuttle program and forward to the future of spaceflight, and ponder what the next generation of dreamers will have to look forward to.   

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Mayans And 2012: Prophesied Celestial Conspiracy

David Millerchip on the likelihood of the world ending in 2012

Believe it or not, when the clock ticks over to December 21st 2012 there will be no armageddon. Instead, there will be lots of people with red faces wondering why the hell they believed something superstitious could bring about the end of the world.

Scientists believe that the sun has entered a period of increased solar activity and it has been suggested in the news recently that this could threaten to damage our infrastructure as the charged solar winds wreak havoc on our electronics. Predictably, believers of the 2012 prophecy have linked this to the Mayan calendar, and as 2012 draws nearer, it's hard to dispute that this increase of solar activity coincides quite nicely with the theory. But this is just one of many 'suggestions' of what might happen on December 21st next year. world.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Some Nuclear Perspective

An essay in defence of nuclear energy by David Millerchip

Nuclear is a scary word. Shrouded in mystery and misconception, it has captured the minds of scientists, politicians, activists and tyrants. The word still conjures up the worst images and ideas that humankind has to offer, even though we are in some way indebted to nuclear energy, whether it is something so local such as powering our homes or something on a massive scale like our existence on this planet. A nuclear reaction is the starting block for human life in the core of a star and yet a nuclear reaction also has the power to take the lives of millions. I am in awe of this word.

Next month we will be remembering the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. A partial meltdown of the reactor core at the plant occurred, leading to an explosion causing plumes of irradiated smoke and ash to smother a large area around the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Although disputed, over 50 people were killed as a direct result of the accident, but the total number of people affected by the fallout from the accident is believed to be anywhere from 20,000 to 1,000,000.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Revolution Will Be Tweeted

By Steven Maclean, Dreaming Genius co-editor

When Gil Scott-Heron sang "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", he was right. Al Jazeera may have beamed incredible images of massive demonstrating crowds live around the world, but this was just the tip of the iceberg: the physical manifestation of a revolution which had taken place in minds brought together by social media.

In relatively free societies social media might so far have been more about reuniting with old friends and poking than starting revolutions, but when you have no freedom of speech and the threat of torture for dissent, memes struggle to propagate. They require an environment of connectivity, interactivity and openness; the core principles of social media's founding fathers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

HAL Hath No Fury Like a Watson’s Scorn

By Tony Nunes, Dreaming Genius co-editor

Last Monday began a three-day tournament that may or may not have repercussions on the remainder of human existence, as we know it.  The jury is still out.  On the long running quiz show Jeopardy, two former champions of the game went up against a new and much heralded foe, the likes of which have only been seen in the writings of Isaac Asimov and Phillip K Dick.  Watson, an AI program designed by the technology gurus at IBM would become an overnight sensation, a champion that has posed the question; who is the real winner here?

Watson runs off of the room sized POWER7 processor constructed by IBM to facilitate natural language computing.  At its core, Watson is a question answering supercomputer, one that can clearly discern the cadence and metonymy of the human language.  There are numerous camps of varying opinions surrounding the success and limelight of the Watson program.  Will Watson be a facilitator of positive change, doom, or little importance to the future of mankind?

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