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Vocal Joystick lets physically disabled control a computer mouse with their voice

On August 22, 2008, University of Washington Electrical Engineering Ph.D candidate Jon Malkin spoke about the Vocal Joystick (VJ) project at the Gnomedex 8.0 tech conference:

The Horror Geek presents: Burn, Zombie Burn! Headed to PlayStation Network

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I still don't own a PlayStation 3. I'm one of those guys who picks up every console in every generation--then when something exclusive releases, I don't have to give a crap. The PS3, though, has remained a bit out of my price range and didn't have anything I was dying to play for quite awhile. That's changing now (well, not the price part, but the games I want to play half) with MGS4, Disgaea 3, and now, Burn, Zombie Burn!

Looking at the screenshots for this title, the first thing that pops into my head is "damn, this looks like a next-gen version of Zombies Ate My Neighbors"--which was a great 16-bit era game that appeared on the SNES and Genesis.

On the Download: World of Goo tastes good

Despite my hesitation to comply with the $15 price point that's been occurring more frequently on the various download services, I've been hearing nothing but good about World of Goo via WiiWare and decided to take the plunge—thankfully, the word on the ‘net was correct.


The art style is great

That 70's Show Mila Kunis geeks out about WoW on Jimmy Kimmel

It's nice to see hot celebs talk about video games like it ain't no thang.

The Horror Geek presents: Dead Space sequel, movie, and tie-ins in the works

 Dead Space Screenshot 

Although the game's only been out a little over a week, EA's Dead Space is already generating a lot of "potential franchise" buzz. Variety's Ben Fritz posted some tantalizing morsels in his blog, The Cut Scene, earlier this week.

Speaking to EA Games label President Frank Gibeau and Dead Space executive producer Glenn Schoefield, here are the highlights:

Schoefield confirmed that EA is "talking to movie studios right now" about the prospects of the game becoming a feature film. It should be noted that there's an animated film, Dead Space: Downfall, already slated for release.

The producer added that EA and a publishing partner are "talking about Dead Space novels as well as a line of toys".

Finally, he also mentioned that a Dead Space sequel was already in the works. Judging by the early fan response to the game, this is good news.

To read more of the blog (including news about sequels to Army of Two and Battlefield: Bad Company), head on over here.

School for the deaf uses PSPs in the classroom

At the Longwill School for the Deaf in Birmingham, England, students study in both British Sign Language (BSL) and English. According to a Futurelab article, they communicate in these two very different languages with the help of PlayStation Portables.

Last year, the school borrowed some units from the Birmingham East City Learning Centre; the deputy head thought that, among other things, the PSP would be good for teaching sign language to the students' hearing siblings. For instance, an instructor could make sign language videos for the kids to play on their systems, and the kids could practice by signing into their PSPs' integrated video cameras. The PSP has also become a portable notebook for the school's pupils. BSL and English have completely different grammars and sentence structures, and written English is still focused on how words sound. (For a more in-depth analysis of the problems deaf people can have with written English, see What Really Matters in the Early Literacy Development of Deaf Children).

What does the Sony PSP have to do with English literacy? Teachers giving writing assignments can ask students to do a draft of their work by making a video in sign with their PSPs' cameras; then, when they bring their PSPs back to school, they can work on English translation with the teacher's help. As Longwill's deputy head Allison Carter says, "[English writing is] becoming much more manageable for the children and you’re getting a much higher quality of work because they can reflect in their first language." To see more about how Longwill is using technology in the classroom, including images of PSPs in action, see Nathan Monk's Design Diary.

In related (if old) news, you can turn your PSP into a portable Teletype (TTY) device.

GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 1

Welcome to the premiere episode of the GameCritics.com Podcast!
This week's topics include:

  • Reviews of Saints Row 2 and Art Style: Cubello
  • Why game criticism matters to us
  • Can games make us cry?

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Please send questions for a future mailbag segment to podcast (at) gamecritics (dot) com.

The terrible secret of my GTA IV review!

When I gave Grand Theft Auto IV the insultingly low score of 85%, quite a few people suggested that I had some kind of a secret grudge against the game that kept me from giving it the glowing adoration that it so obviously deserved. Well, I'm finally ready to admit that yes, I did have a secret predjudice against the game, one that I'll reveal through the medium of crudely-edited video:

I doubt I can be much clearer than that.

UNC-Chapel Hill students make games for blind players

According to an article in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill magazine Endeavors ("Fair Games"), UNC computer science students are designing games for players with low vision. The games were field tested at "Maze Day," when 70 kids with visual impairments came from all around North Carolina to play:

The game [Move to the Music] gives [the blind player] audio feedback on her performance: a handclap when she steps in time to the beat, an occasional buzzer when she’s off rhythm. Six-inch-wide pieces of carpet cover the centers of the squares on the pad, telling her feet where to step.
...
Other students used information readily available on the internet to write programs that can communicate with Nintendo’s Wii controller, called the Wii Remote or 'Wiimote.' Given the task of making a sports game, one group picked a sport that would be familiar to their target audience: beep ball. The real-life game is based on baseball and played by many blind kids and adults, using a softball that beeps and bases that make buzzing sounds. The game the students created combines verbal cues such as 'Ready!' 'Pitch!' and 'Strike!' with simple figures that seem to zoom closer to the player as they run across a green field. The player swings the Wiimote to hit the ball, then shakes the controller back and forth to run toward a base.

The games are playable on common, inexpensive hardware, and are open source; they can be improved or adapted as necessary.

Ubisoft game simulates disabilities

There's been a lot of disability-related goodness going on at Ubisoft lately. After taking action against an ableist slur in MindQuiz last year, the publisher announced this past September that all its games developed in-house will be subtitled. Also, Ubisoft is partnering with organization Handicap International for a campaign called Ability Together. This campaign raises awareness of the problems disabled people face, particularly those in developing countries. And it includes Handigo The Game, a series of free minigames starring characters with different impairments: one is blind, one uses a wheelchair and one has learning difficulties.

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