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Huge sale on Transformers @ Amazon

Pardon the interruption on this non-video game related post, but long-time readers know I’m a pretty big Transformer geek and I thought it would be a crime to not share these insane prices. Transformer fans enjoy.

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Is Gears of War 2 a tearjerker?

Gears of War 2 

I finished the main campaign in Gears of War 2 last night after chainsawing my way through hundreds of locusts and being sprayed by about a thousand gallons of blood. It was a pretty kick-ass experience on the whole, filled with over the top set pieces and so-bad-its-good dialogue. Given the extreme Gears of War-ishness of it all, however, I was taken aback by two surprisingly dark turns in the story, including one moment that nearly brought tears to my eyes. How could this be possible? Let me explain.

Videogame "addicts" not addicted to games

Ok, that title is a bit off. What it should say is that most videogame addicts aren't actually addicted to games.

That was the finding of Keith Bakker, founder and head of The Smith & Jones Centre in Amsterdam. This clinic, opened in 2006, was the first and only clinic of its kind to treat gaming addicts.

Many will remember when this clinic was first opened. It was reported that there was a flood of inquiries from concerned parents and young adults just coming to grips with the then exploding genre of games: massively multiplayer online role-playing games.

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

Using traditional abstinence-based treatment models the clinic has had very high success rates treating people who also show other addictive behaviours such as drug taking and excessive drinking.

But Mr Bakker believes that this kind of cross-addiction affects only 10% of gamers. For the other 90% who may spend four hours a day or more playing games such as World of Warcraft, he no longer thinks addiction counselling is the way to treat these people.

"These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies," he says.

"But the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers - this is a social problem."

Home vs. NXE: Can Sony's virtual dystopia overcome Microsoft's hollow commercial machine?

Now that I've had the chance to play around a bit with the New Xbox Experience (NXE) and Home, here are my impressions.

Overall, I think the New Xbox Experience is a big improvement and offers a lot of advantages to Xbox 360 owners, provided that they have: 1) a Gold membership; 2) a Netflix account; 3) a sufficiently fast broadband internet connection for streaming "HD" content; and 4) a 120gb hard drive. Unfortunately, I have none of these things.

Being in Home, on the other hand, makes me feel like I'm in some vaguely dystopian future filled with vacant, plastic-looking faces, where everyone's thoughts are controlled by Sony and there's nothing to do other than absorb commercials and play stupid mini-games.

GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 5

This week's topics include:

  • Impressions/reviews of the New Xbox Experience and A Kingdom for Keflings
  • Listener Q&A:
    1. Why do critics compete to give a game the highest possible score?
    2. How has the Wii changed the landscape for gamers?
    3. Why are videogames still regarded as children's games when gamers have gotten older and games more sophisticated?
    4. Can a bad game be good, either in the sense that its development resulted in positives for gaming as a whole, or in the sense that its fundamental badness was a "quality" unto itself?
    5. Do you prefer a game to do only one thing for its duration or that it aim to do everything in small amounts?
    6. Do you guys have the same problem as me with playing single player games in that they feel terribly lonely?

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Please send mailbag questions to podcast (at) gamecritics (dot) com.

Not feeling Dead Space

Guitar Hero helps calibrate prosthetic arms

An article in the November 2008 issue of IEEE Spectrum Online describes how Guitar Hero is being used to help "train" artificial arms for amputees. It's part of the Revolutionizing Prosthetics (RP) 2009 project, sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). One of the RP 2009 project's goals is that:

[i]n four years, DSO [the Defense Services Office] will deliver a prosthetic for clinical trials that has function almost identical to a natural limb in terms of motor control and dexterity, sensory feedback (including proprioception), weight, and environmental resilience. The four-year device will be directly controlled by neural signals.

GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 4

This week's topics include:

  • Impressions and reviews of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and LEGO Batman
  • Gaming with Spouses: In or out of the gaming closet on a first date?

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Please send mailbag questions to podcast (at) gamecritics (dot) com.

Touring Home beta

So, I just finished my first tour of Sony's new Home app, and... there's not really much to say.

I got an e-mail out of the blue this afternoon inviting me to download the Home Beta and "join in a celebration" between 6pm-8pm, Pacific. After being less than impressed with the New Xbox Experience, I was ready to get an up-close look at what Sony has to counter with, so I did just that.

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