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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.

I hate movie-licensed video games

Prince Caspian

I'm gonna go ahead and admit straight out that I have an almost unshakable dislike towards movie-licensed games. In the same way that certain people are (often unfairly) judged by the legal system as guilty until proven innocent, I look at movie-based games as bad until proven good. I don't know exactly how this notion got cemented in my brain, but there's no denying it. I've tried to trace it back to some specific experience, but I just can't come up with anything. All I know is that I have a universally negative knee jerk reaction to movie-licensed video games.

I haven't played very many of them (mostly because I assume they'll be a complete waste of my time), so my stance isn't based on much experience. Let's see how many movie-based games I can think of right now. Aladdin for the Sega Genesis. I really enjoyed that game at the time. Back to the Future for the NES. Fantastic Four on the GameCube. Batman Begins. The Da Vinci Code. Played it, hated it. That's all I can think of. So far this doesn't really account for my position, because in the case of the last three games mentioned, I actually recall carrying a pretty strong anti-movie-based-game bias going in. As for the really old stuff for the 8- and 16-bit systems, I was much younger, and those were different times.

The "Raving Rabbids" and mental illness

(Via Disability Studies, Temple U):

Penny L. Richards, scholar with UCLA's Center for the Study of Women and historian of disability and special education (among other things) asks about the game Raving Rabbids: TV Party (emphasis and bold in the original):

Crazy, wacky, raving, and rabid too... which all apparently mean screaming with wide open mouths and unfocused eyes, causing havoc, chaos, destruction? "Get ready for you and all your friends to go insane." Lovely.

In or out of the gaming closet on a first date?

As part of a new Gaming with Spouses series for the GameCritics.com podcast, I thought it would be interesting to pose the following question to to several of my women friends: "If on a first date, a guy reveals that he's a "gamer" (meaning he plays a lot of video games), is this a good or bad thing?" Here are some of the responses that I got back.

Animal Crossing: City Folk, a new subtitle, same basic game

Deja vu?!

Animal Crossing: City Folk is the new Wii version of the hit game Animal Crossing. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the US-original Gamecube (GCN) version of Animal Crossing, and in fact, I just checked in on my town a couple of months ago. (Sadly, one of my original residents decided to move out, after several years of residence. I was surprised to say the least!)

The new City Folk appears to be a refinement of the series. It looks like a smoother version of Animal Crossing (GCN) modified with some features from Wild World (the DS iteration). Notably, terrain is on a curved surface instead of being flat, Copper runs the gate to the outside world tucked into a northern cave, the sky has constellations and I believe accessories are available.

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