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David Bowie should be in every video game
08.21.2014
02:46 pm

Topics:
Games
Movies

Tags:
David Bowie


 
While I strive to be a Bowie completest, I feel like I’m constantly coming across some weird little project he did on the side, many of which are more intuitive than others. Somehow I entirely missed that he partially scored and had a small voice-over part in the 1999 adventure game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul. Frankly I’m a little surprised he never got into video game acting earlier—he has a great speaking voice, and is there a rocker more sci-fi than he? And that face! Those chiseled cheeks are perfect for 3-D animation.

The plot of Omikron even reads like a concept Bowie came up with. The player enters an alternate dimension to investigate murders in a futuristic city, eventually liberating citizens from a fascistic techno-government while attempting to evade demons trying to steal their soul (you know, script number 3). Bowie wrote some decent pop tunes for the soundtrack and played an underground revolutionary. He also makes an “appearance” as a singer for a band that plays illegal concerts. It’s all very much the cyberpunk “vive la résistance” aesthetics à la The Matrix, which came out the same year.

Where it falls flat is the attempt to divine a music video from the not-so-slick game animation—a rare miss from Bowie’s aesthetics. I mean, it’s not “Dancing in the Street” bad, but it’s no Labyrinth either.
 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Destroy millions of dollars’ worth of Ai Weiwei vases in new video game
05.22.2014
06:22 am

Topics:
Art
Games
Science/Tech

Tags:
Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei
 
Many of you reading this will recall the incident of last February in which a gentleman named Maximo Caminero destroyed a very valuable vase by the internationally famous Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei at the Perez Art Museum Miami.

Ai Weiwei and dropped vases were linked well before Caminero committed his act of artistic vandalism, which might in fact be regarded as a form of hommage—indeed, Caminero has said as much. For, nearly two decades earlier, Ai Weiwei did much the same thing in order to elicit a reaction. In his 1995 photographic triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, Ai Weiwei does precisely what the title indicates, getting butterfingers with a 2000-year-old relic. These three massive pictures were hanging just a few feet away from Caminero in the Perez Art Museum Miami, so his claim to be perpetrating hommage seems highly credible.
 
Ai Weiwei
 
You might even say that “Ai Weiwei and dropping valuable vases” constitutes one of the most exciting new artistic genres of our era. According to Chin-Chin Yap, in 2012 “Swiss artist Manuel Salvisberg created a photographic triptych called Fragments of History, which depicts Uli Sigg in an almost identical stance to Ai’s in Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn. Here, Sigg drops the famed Coca-Cola Urn [a work by Ai Weiwei] that has long been one of the central pieces of his collection.”
 
Manuel Salvisberg
 
If I’m understanding this game correctly (and if we follow the logic of a certain conceptual-art exchange purportedly performed by Macaulay Culkin and Ryan Gosling last week), the next step in the sequence would be for Ai Weiwei to destroy an invaluable urn created by Manuel Salvisberg, or possibly by Maximo Caminero.

Be that as it may, a video game designer called Grayson Earle has broken this closed loop by creating an online video game called “Ai Wei Whoops!” in which the player repeatedly drops 2D images of Ai Weiwei vases on the ground, which then go smash. After that the tally of “approximate property damage” increases by some number in the neighborhood of a million dollars (it isn’t always the same number).

Here’s the Caminero video, for those who’d like to see the mayhem all over again:
 

 
via Hyperallergic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘It’s Pie Face!’: Hasbro’s sadomasochistic kids’ game, 1968
05.16.2014
08:58 am

Topics:
Amusing
Food
Games

Tags:
Pie Face


 
What’s more fun than humiliating yourself in front of friends and family with a self-inflicted pie in your face?

“Pie Face,” made by Hassenfeld Bros (now Hasbro) in 1968, was a cream pie game version of Russian roulette.

...you placed a whipped cream “pie” on the launcher, then took turns spinning to find out how many times to crank the launcher’s handles. It was randomly set to let the pie fly into the player’s face, positioned within the target.

According to the box “Pie Face” is “The most fun-filled action GAME you’ve ever played!”


 
The “loser” of this variation on the Russian roulette theme is kind of the winner, though, ‘cause at least they get to eat some pie and not die.
 

 
The whole “goo in the face” aspect of the song lyrics in the “Pie Face” commercial jingle would probably have to be revisited if they ever revive this game… And what’s a “mystery handle” aside from a great name for a punk band?
 

 
Via Tracy’s Toys and h/t Richard Swanson

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Danish gov’t creates perfect Minecraft Denmark; hooligans promptly blow it up, plant American flags
05.09.2014
09:37 am

Topics:
Amusing
Games
Science/Tech

Tags:
Denmark
Minecraft

Mincraft Denmark
 
I love everything about this story. I love what the Danish government did, in creating a perfect 1:1 Minecraft simulation of the entire country of Denmark, and I love what the users did, which is, by sheer inventiveness and determination, circumvent the Danish government’s well thought out measures to prevent people from messing with it. Well, maybe I don’t love the jingoistic instinct of the American gamer… Well, what are you gonna do?

About a week ago the Danish government made the meticulous simulacrum available to users. You can download sections of the Denmark map here. The simulation involved the use of “trillions” of Minecraft bricks, and although there have been similar real-life Minecraft simulations before, from all appearances this is one of the most ambitious and detailed areas of this sort yet achieved.

The Danish Geodata Agency, the creators of the simulation, intelligently disabled the use of dynamite so that users could enjoy the pixelated Scandinavian land unmolested. But the innate human need to fuck shit up prevailed. You see, the Danish Geodata Agency had neglected to disable the “minecart with dynamite” item. Oops. Users figured this out, blew up parts of a number of Danish towns, and put American flags over the main train station of Copenhagen (pictured above). In this reddit thread about the incident (in Danish), a Swedish user wrote in, “As a Swede, I’m happy to see this…..” (As usual, the Swedes and the Danes always get along under all circumstances…..)

Initially, the Danish government announced that it would reboot the map with add new restrictions to prevent the possibility of virtual vandalism. However, further investigation revealed that “only MINOR areas” of the map were destroyed, so they would leave the simulation intact. The simulation has been quite popular, having been downloaded 200,000 times already, so all in all it’s PR coup for the pleasant European nation that gave the world LEGO and Lars von Trier.

Here’s a little tour of the Minecraft Denmark (pre-vandalism) so you can see what it’s like.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Animated ‘Breaking Bad’/‘Street Fighter’ mashup is weirdly satisfying
04.01.2014
07:38 am

Topics:
Games
Television

Tags:
Breaking Bad
Street Fighter

Street Fighter Walter White
 
This video is only a minute long, and there’s really not that much to it, but—I don’t know, it just works. UK-based animator Junior Jessman wanted to pay homage to a favorite video game and TV series, both of which happen to have a purchase on a distinct style of badassery, and the result is this slapdash Ryu-vs.-Jesse Pinkman masterpiece. All the characters look somewhat like Playmobil figurines or possibly Mr. Potato Head, but the love still flows through, what with the use of well-chosen audio samples and video effects. I love the cacti wearing cowboy hats to give the battle a solid sense of place.
 
Street Fighter Jesse Pinkman
Jesse uses his special “magnet power” move to subdue his foes
 
Jesse’s power move derives from his most famous utterance on Breaking Bad—“Yeah, bitch! Magnets!” from the Season 5 premiere. But when Ryu gets Jesse in a tight spot, who saves him but Walter “Heisenberg” White swooping in like a never-to-be-fucked-with Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China.
 

 
via RocketNews24

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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What if the Nazis had won? A 1960s top 40 radio sampler
03.28.2014
10:54 am

Topics:
Games
History
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Nazis
1960s


 
Alternate history is a fascinating genre of fiction. You have your anachronistic nostalgia, like steampunk, but that tends to be largely aesthetic, and I’m not that into parasols or goggles. (Also, the glorification of less technology tends to overlook some really inconvenient historical realities, like how inefficient steam power actually was.) I prefer my alternate histories to be horrifying dystopias, and “what if the Nazis won?” certainly fits the bill. There are some critically acclaimed novels based on that very premise—Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle,  Robert Harris’ Fatherland, and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, but this has to be the first time a video game has been set in a world where Hitler triumphed.

The Wolfenstein video game franchise has produced nine editions in total (the original in 1981), all of which are based on fighting Nazis. The latest incarnation, Wolfenstein: The New Order, takes place in the 1960s, where the player navigates a Nazi-controlled Europe in hopes of launching a counter-offensive against the regime. What appeals to me, of course, is the custom-made soundtrack—the “commercial” below is for a compilation of the 1960s “Nazi pop” that will play throughout the game.

The pre-order for Wolfenstein also includes a package of “artifacts,” like postcards and military patches, but it’s the soundtrack that really establishes the mood for a game. There’s prom-worthy slow-dances, bubblegum pop, growling rockabilly, beach-blanket bingo surf rock, and even some Teutonic psychedelia. You can listen to the whole thing here. I feel like the fact that I speak absolutely no German actually frees up my ear to recognize the attention to sonic detail.
 

 
Via A.V. Club

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Juden Raus’: Nazi-era anti-Semitic board game where you deport the Jews

Juden Raus!
 
Who would have guessed that the Holocaust wouldn’t make for a perfectly peachy board game for the little German children of the Third Reich? As it turns out, getting rid of all the Jews just isn’t that much fun. (Of course, given sound game design principles, just about anything can be made fun, but foregrounding one’s own small-minded intolerance and hatred and desire to exile a minority group is probably not the first step in that creative process.)

In 1935 the Nuremberg Laws were passed in Germany—these laws codified the desire of the Nazis, at a minimum, to segregate Jews from all areas of public life. In effect the laws—which communicated the idea, “You’re not wanted here!”—were a powerful argument for accelerated out-migration. Those Jews who could afford it and who also avoided the tragic tendency to rationalize away the hatred directed towards them, got the point, and left if they hadn’t already done so. As the years ticked by, the urgency of getting some kind of exit visa would only increase.

A year after the Nuremberg Laws, a company called Günther & Co. released a Parcheesi-style board game; its title was one of the ugliest phrases in human history—Juden Raus! The title is best translated as, “Jews, Get Out” or possibly “Get Rid of the Jews” depending on your conception of agency, and is the most succinct possible expression of the official German attitude towards Jews under the Third Reich. (The word “official” is important here. Anti-Semitism was certainly popular enough to become a key pillar of the ideology of the state, but just as Tea Partiers don’t like Obamacare, not all Germans were equally afflicted by the disease.)
 
Juden Raus!
“Juden Raus! Das Neue Gesellschafts-Spiel” (“Out with the Jews! The Game of the New Society”)
 
In the game, young Germans across the Reich were encouraged, in what practically seems a parodic Firesign Theatre-style intervention, to move the six “Jew” game pieces around the board in such a way as to secure them on spots outside the metaphorical “wall” of the German state such that they would be transported “Auf nach Palästina!” (Off to Palestine!). Each game piece came with a conical “dunce”-style cap with a grotesque Jewish caricature on it. On the board itself were two little pieces of doggerel that helped explain the goal of the game: Zeige geschick im Würfelspiel, damit du sammelst der Juden viel! (“Show skill in this dice game, so that you gather up all the Jews!”) and Gelingt es Dir 6 Juden rauszujagen, so bist Du Sieger ohne zu fragen! (“If you succeed in chasing six Jews out, you’re the winner, without a doubt!”) At a guess, the inherently cooperative nature of something like the Holocaust interferes with the competitive imperatives of a good board game. In other words, how did the game work, exactly? If I exile three Jews and you exile just two, then I win? It doesn’t quite make sense.
 
Juden Raus!
“Off to Palestine with you, little Jew!”
 
Surprisingly, the best evidence we have suggests that the Nazis themselves didn’t like the game. Why? Because it had the effect of trivializing such the, er, “noble” task of purifying Germany. In one of the most remarkable bits of prose I have ever read, the Nazi newspaper Das Schwarze Korps in December 1938 published a brief review in which they sharply criticized the game.
 

This invention ... is almost a punishable idea, perfectly suitable as grist to the mills of hate of the international Jewish journaille, who would show around such a piece of mischief as a proof for the childish efforts of the nazistic Jew-haters with a diabolic smirk, if it would appear before her crooked nose.

-snip-

Jews out! yes of course, but also rapidly out of the toy-boxes of our children, before they are led into the dreadful error that political problems are solved with the dice cup.


 
In a recent academic paper about the game, which they aptly label “History’s most infamous board game,” Andrew Morris-Friedman and Ulrich Schädler get in the final word:
 

What insights are achieved from “Juden Raus!” about Nazi culture? It is hard to imagine a family sitting at a table playing a game that taught racial hatred. Yet it seems there were people like Rudolf Fabricius who imagined that some families would do just that. Fabricius was one of those mere supporters who thought to make some profit by following in the wake of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda. Today most people react with disbelief or disgust when informed of the game’s existence. “Juden Raus!” shows that after decades of propaganda, anti-Semitism was so deeply rooted in German society in the 1930s, that someone thought it would be a good subject for a children’s game. Racism is present in many board games, but “Juden Raus!” is unique in its portrayal of how racism manifests itself in society and is a terrifying example of the banality of evil.

 
In my research for this post, I stumbled across a more contemporary attempt to depict the full horror of the Holocaust in the form of a board game. Brenda Brathwaite’s 2009 game Train turned the task of loading little yellow people onto trains for some undisclosed final destination, with the reveal, late in the game, that the destination is actually Auschwitz, although the game’s suitably grim visual design gives the punchline away well before that point is attained.
 
Train
 
Here’s a 2009 video from The Wall Street Journal about Brathwaite’s game Train:
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Classic ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ video game gets a makeover for its 30th anniversary

hitchhikerguidecover
 

You wake up. The room is spinning very gently around your head. Or at least it would be if you could see it which you can’t.

If you recognize these sentences, then geek out with me. This past weekend was a joyous one for Douglas Adams fans. The delightful, classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure PC game was modernized and relaunched Saturday by the BBC Radio 4 Extra in honor of its 30th anniversary. March 8th was also the date of the Hitchhiker’s Guide radio show’s first broadcast in 1978. Episodes are being curated and rebroadcast here.

One of the first video games based on a science fiction book, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sold an amazing 350,000 copies on its initial release for Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64, DOS, Amiga, Atari 8-bit, and Atari ST. 350,000 copies may not seem like a big deal now, but in 1984 when PC owners were very much in the minority, it was almost unheard of. It placed the game solidly in Infocom’s all-time top five bestsellers.


infocomscreenshot
 
Gaming in the olden days…


The original packaging included a “Don’t Panic!” pin-on button, a packet of “pocket fluff” (a cottonball), the order for destruction of Arthur Dent’s house, the order for destruction of Earth written in Vogon, official Microscopic Space Fleet (an empty plastic bag), Peril Sensitive Sunglasses (made of black cardboard), the brochure How Many Times Has This Happened to You?, and no tea (a recurring theme in the game). The online 20th anniversary edition won an Interactive BAFTA Award for Best Online Entertainment in 2004. Still located on BBC Radio 4’s ancient server, it has never stopped attracting visitors on a daily basis. The new version has HD graphics and sound, as well as a Twitter feed @h2g2game.


howmanytimes
 


I have unsuccessfully tried to explain to my offspring that, even though our Jurassic-era PC games lacked sound and graphics, they were still fun! Like Planet Fall and other Infocom games, playing Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meant that you died in a multitude of ludicrous ways. Mashable’s Stan Shroeder called the game “infamously hard and wickedly funny. Often the most logical course of action will only yield a sarcastic remark from the game’s AI engine, while to progress you must do something completely ridiculous.” Many puzzles, especially the first few, were notoriously difficult to solve even if you had read the book. There were even T-shirts printed up by Infocom for braggarts wanting the world to know they had freed the Babel fish.

An early review of the game from 1985 in Personal Computer News said:

I doubt if there’s ever been anything funnier on a computer than this. That goes for the adventure itself which veers from the storyline of the book, but I was so overcome with the excitement at getting a babel fish out of the dispenser that I couldn’t go any further. Buy it.

A walk-through of the original text game:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Witty, macabre playing cards comment on the fresh horrors of the Nazi concentration camps
02.14.2014
12:41 pm

Topics:
Art
Games
History

Tags:
Holocaust
Dachau

Boris Kobe
 
These fascinating playing cards are the work of a Slovenian artist named Boris Kobe who was held by the Nazis as a political prisoner in Allach, which was a sub-camp of the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. Kobe lived to see the end of the war, and was a very successful architect in his native Slovenia afterwards; he died well into his seventies in 1981. His most prominent project after the war was probably the restoration of the Ljubljana Castle with Jože Plečnik.

As I see it, it’s a little unclear when and where these cards were made. Sources uniformly describe them as having been made “at Allach”—yet at least one of them appears to have been made after the Allied liberation of the camp, and it’s difficult to imaging Kobe hanging around the camp for very long after that. Certainly there wasn’t weeks of clandestine card games going on after that crucial moment. It’s difficult to tell, but there might be a little rhetorical sleight of hand going on there.

Whatever the case, the cards are simply remarkable. First, they look pretty great; Kobe was a gifted caricaturist, and there’s a lot of pleasure to be gained simply from looking at them. But most importantly, they show a life at Dachau close-up in the frankest terms. The cards depict inmates and guards alike, although most of the figures depicted are inmates forced to do back-breaking work, crowded into bunk beds,  disrobing en masse, and, of course, as a pile of skeletons. The king of clubs is depicted as a skeleton.

As I mentioned, these cards were almost certainly created after the liberation of Allach on April 22, 1945 by the 42nd Rainbow Division of the U.S. Army. How do we know this? It’s apparently depicted in one of the cards: Card XXI seems to show liberation, the Slovenian flag, and a tombstone-like image marked “Allach” that is being consumed by flames.

The cards are intended for a game variously called Tarock/Tarot, but the word tarot here is likely to be misleading to English-speaking audiences. Tarock/Tarot is a trick-based game like spades or gin that was popular in the Habsburg Empire and Europe generally for centuries. So this is not a tarot deck in the occult sense as we would think of it; that should be obvious from a glance at the cards, which lack characters like The Fool, The Magician, The Hanged Man, The Sun, and so on. To their creator Kobe and whomever else originally used them, it was just a regular deck of playing cards. I have family in Austria and on my visits there we would sometimes play a related game called “Schnapsen” which didn’t require four players and used a restricted deck, I think the cards only went down as far as the eight card. Basically a game of Schnapsen there was equivalent to the way dominoes is played in a lot of places, you’d play it aimlessly and shoot the shit and gossip.

See the complete deck at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies website hosted by the University of Minnesota. The original deck is at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia.
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
More of these amazing cards after the jump….
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Atari ‘holy grail’: Moses ‘Crossing The Red Sea’ Bible story video game, 1983
01.15.2014
10:14 am

Topics:
Games

Tags:
Atari


 
Ah the 1980s. Things were simpler then—especially video games!

Take for instance this goofy—and impossibly rare—Atari 2600 curiosity, “Red Sea Crossing.” The primitive “run and jump” game—watch out for those snapping clams and snakes—was created by an independent designer named Steve Stack in 1983. Obviously, the Old Testament story of Moses parting the Red Sea served as the basis of the game, which was advertised in religious magazines. It came packaged with an audio tape narrated by—who else—Dale Evans Rogers and a coloring book. (WHO was the target market for this item?)

The game was never sold in stores and was was only available for $34.95 from the manufacturer. As a result, it’s one of the rarest Atari 2600 games, what’s been describe with tongue only partially in cheek as a “holy grail” for collectors. The game wasn’t even known to exist by the collectors market until one cartridge was found at a garage sale in 2007. That cartridge was auctioned off for over $10,000 in 2012.

Below, a look at the gameplay of “Crossing the Read Sea”
 

 
Thank you kindly ifthenwhy!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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