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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 3

It's the thrilling third episode of the GameCritics.com Podcast!
This week's topics include:

  • Impressions of Art Style: ROTOHEX, Gears of War 2, Castlevania: Order of Ecclasia, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts demo and Tomb Raider: Underworld demo
  • The Annual Holiday Gaming Glut: Its impact on gamers and the industry.

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

Motion-sensing PlayStation controllers for gamers with disabilities just in time for the holidays

Via Computeractive.uk:

UK charity AbilityNet is partnering with Excitim Ltd. to make PlayStation, PS2 and PS3 controllers that can be manipulated with head movement. Part of their "Dream" line of adapted toys for kids with disabilities, the Dream-Gamer comes with a motion-sensing baseball cap which " enable[s] individuals to use head movements to control aspects of the game such as moving left, right, forward or backwards."

Video: Gamer, tech journalist Michael Phillips demonstrates his accessible Mac setup

Michael Phillips is a gamer, tech journalist and AppleMaster. He's written for Inside Mac Games. Michael has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and uses a USB switch interface called Swifty and SwitchXS, a program which lets people who use switches access all Mac applications. Right now, he's the editor for AssistiveGaming.com.

Dead Space and the evolution and elimination of HUDs

Dead Space

As far as the video game part of my life goes, last week was all about Dead Space. Well, I also finished up the original Metal Gear Solid (After the credits rolled, my mostly non-gaming wife aptly summed it up as "very Japanese.") but I digress. I rented the PS3 version from Blockbuster and played it steadily through the week until finally beating it on Sunday night. My wife was actually backseat for the entire duration, so props to her for sticking it out.

While I wouldn't consider Dead Space a truly great game, I do think it's a very good one. The graphics and sound are top notch, the zero gravity gameplay is quite cool, the story is decent (enhanced by watching the six downloadable video comics), and the game as a whole just does a great job of delivering the scares. Oh yeah, and I really dug the way the game handled being in a vacuum with no sound. Rather than talk about that stuff, however, I'd like to focus in on something that really stood out to me about Dead Space: the absence of a HUD.

Video game helps disabled people learn life skills

A ScienceDaily article from May profiles a video game that helps people with disabilities learn to shop at a supermarket. The game's development team was led by three 2008 graduates of the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, and is part of the CapAbility Games Research Group. The game is called Casual Shopper and its supermarket is based on a local brick-and-mortar store called Price Chopper, right down to the blueprints:

A computer monitor set up directly in front of the user simulates the layout of the store, and a second monitor to the left displays a virtual shopping list. Users start the game by selecting a meal they’d like to make—such as a spaghetti dinner, a holiday ham, or even rotini with alfredo lobster sauce—and complete it when they’ve found all the items on their list.

I think simulating an actual place in a video game is a really neat project. Of course, I'm biased.

Computerized toy helps autistic children learn language

Helma van Rijn, a graduate student at the Delft University of Technology, developed a computerized toy to help young autistic children learn language. The project is called LINKX. A person can say a word (e.g. "fishbowl") into a kind of pictogram called a "speech-o-gram"; they then attach the speech-o-gram to the object it names. Kids can link special blocks to the speech-o-grams, which light up with colors and play sounds. Here's a video of LINKX in action:

(Note: While the video's spoken language is Dutch, English subtitles explain the action taking place).

Video game as screening, therapeutic tool for people with fragile X syndrome

Fragile X syndrome is the most common inherited cause of mental retardation that we know of. (Down Syndrome is more common, but only 3-4% of cases are inherited). Nevertheless, fragile X can take a long time to diagnose properly, because many doctors aren't familiar with its features. According to an article in last month's newsletter of UC Davis's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), Dr. Randi Hagerman of the M.I.N.D. Institute is teaming up with media artists Greg Niemeyer and Kimiko Ryokai to create a video game that will not only help screen young children for some of the weaknesses associated with fragile X syndrome like visual-motor and visual-spatial skills, but could help kids improve those skills as well.

The Horror Geek Presents: EA Announces Dead Space Upgrade Packs

 

According to Kotaku, EA has announced that its popular survival horror game Dead Space is getting some premium upgrade packs. Like all things EA, expect these new "enhancements" to cost you (to the tune of nearly $30 if you wanted them all--which is half the retail price of the entire goddamn game...) and that some of them will be useless "graphical upgrades" as opposed to things that would actually warrant shelling out cold hard cash. In their defense, there are some upgrades that change the game experience--upgrading weapon power, mostly--and no one's holding a gun to your head to force you into shelling out cash for these things. Your copy of Dead Space will still work just fine without them.

Trailers & Demos

I just finished Fallout 3 a few minutes ago, and I've got to say that it's miles ahead of the competition when it comes to picking what's going to be my game of the year. It's a pretty fantastic title, and if you haven't played it yet you should run out and get a copy immediately...

With that out of the way, the wife and I ran through a few of the demos and clips I had downloaded onto the 360. Here's a few words.

Voice of Marcus Fenix, John Dimaggio interview at TheFukerton.com

My good buddy Chad Dukes (who co-hosts the Big O & Dukes show at WJFK FM-where you can hear my movie review segment every Friday afternoon) landed an exclusive interview with John Dimaggio that's up over at his site TheFukerton.com.

Who's John Dimaggio? Only the guy with one of the coolest gigs in the world. Not only is he the voice of Futurama's wisecracking robot Bender, but he's also the voice actor responsible for Gears of War's Marcus Fenix. Check out the two part interview here.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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