Saturday, November 30, 2013

Boston Globe Video Games

I'm sorry I never got into playing them, dear readers. I wasted my time buying and reading books.

"Video game industry a bright spot in Mass." by Hiawatha Bray  |  Globe Staff, September 17, 2012

Despite the sluggish US economy, the Massachusetts video game industry keeps growing, according to a survey by Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI), a state-sponsored game development center at Becker College in Worcester....

At this point I dismiss the $elf-$erving report. 

Related: Local video game industry shrinks in 2012 

Hey, what's one more lie in a new$paper full of them?

Today, the fastest-growing segment of the industry builds much smaller games that run on smartphones or tablet computers and often sell for less than $5....

Loew said Massachusetts should offer tax incentives to video game companies to encourage start-ups and to encourage companies in other states to relocate.

We already went through all that with Schilling and the rest.

But such incentives could be a tough sell after the collapse in May of 38 Studios LLC, a video game company founded by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling that relocated to Providence after Rhode Island provided $75 million in loan guarantees. Rhode Island could end up losing over $100 million on the failed investment.

“That was the aberration, that was the outlier,” MassDiGI’s executive director, Timothy Loew, said of 38 Studios.

He said that instead of investing taxpayer money, Massachusetts should offer incentives that lower taxes on video game companies.

“I think you’ll see that the incentive programs around the world are having a positive benefit to the local economies,” Loew said. 

Game over, money-grubbing $hit.


"Apps shake up video game industry" by Michael B. Farrell  |  Globe Staff, November 02, 2012

The swift migration of gamers from costly consoles to smartphones and tablets, where games are often free or 99 cents, is causing a tectonic shift in the video game industry that has hit a burgeoning sector of the Massachusetts economy especially hard. Two Massachusetts game makers abruptly closed in October, sales of console-based games are plummeting, and game makers are struggling to resize games designed for large screens so they will perform as well on a smaller window....

All in a mere two months? Or is Loew ju$t a liar?

ImaginEngine, a maker of games for children and families with 30 employees in Framingham, closed due to what its parent company, Foundation 9 ­Entertainment of Irvine., Calif., called challenging market conditions.

Then, Zynga Inc., the San Francisco company that ­pioneered social gaming on ­Facebook with FarmVille, shut its Cambridge office and laid off 45 employees as part of a broad cost-cutting plan that included cutting staff in Austin, Texas, and offices overseas. It also phased out 13 games....

Despite the recent setbacks, the video game industry in Massachusetts is growing fast....

For another month anyway. 

Yup, growing while contracting. Only in a video game, 'eh?

In the best of times, game making is a high-risk and erratic business subject to popular whim and abrupt advances in technology.

Yeah, so let's load tax loot into it!

Spectacular failures, such as the collapse of Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios, are not uncommon, and even ­successful companies go through periodic down times.

In recent weeks, Harmonix ­Music Systems Inc., creator of Rock Band, and Turbine Inc., the area’s biggest game company and maker of the Dungeons & Dragons Online, have ­announced layoffs.

So that is at least three companies laying off people during the great AmeriKan recovery!

Some traditional console games, which offer players much richer and deeper experiences than a ­mobile app, continue to sell well, earning big game companies millions in revenues. When Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, one of the most popular console games, first went on sale last November, it sold 6.5 million units in one day in North America and Britain, bringing in more than $400 million in sales.

Consumer spending on console game software could be as high as $25.5 billion this year, while sales of mobile games are expected to reach $9.7 billion, according to Gartner.

But even with big hits such as Modern Warfare, the console side of the business is starting to slump....

And sales of the consoles themselves — from Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp., and Nintendo — are down. While some of the decline can be ­attributed to upcoming releases of a new generation of consoles, mobile is playing a big part.

Aside from the proliferation of smartphones, which about half of all Americans own, many game companies are struggling to adjust to the new mobile business model. For years they have spent millions to develop games that sell for as much as $60. Now, they are competing against free downloads.

Same as new$papers.

Another challenge is how big game studios find inroads into the app marketplace with compelling games that compete with the likes of the wildly popular mobile app Angry Birds and make money.

The industry is moving so fast to adapt to the changing landscape that even the recently jobless are not idle for long.

As word of the layoffs at Zynga’s Cambridge office began circulating last week, competitors immediately wooed those ­employees with job postings on Twitter.

And some of the ­Imagin Engine employees laid off in mid-October will be relocated to other offices by the parent company, Foundation 9....



Founding Fathers featured in new video game

Assassin’s Creed III

Pentagon moves to silence SEALs about missions

‘‘Medal of Honor: Warfighter’’ 

They have been silenced.

State removes violent games from rest stops

What? Why?

"Violent video games put parental judgment to test; Newtown killings intensify misgivings" by Beth Teitell  |  Globe Staff, January 08, 2013

First-person shooter and gory ­video games have long been a fact of life, but many parents say their aversion to the games has intensified after the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., massacre, and a published report that shooter Adam Lanza spent his days in his mother’s darkened basement playing games like the violent blockbuster Call of Duty.

I always viewed those kinds of kids as weird little monsters. Not a problem when training little soldiers, of course. 

Btw, I'm tired of spitballing about that hoax, but the constant flogging by the agenda-pushing media should tell you something!

“I’ve seen parents almost cringing as they’re buying the [violent] games,” said Adem Sawyer, a former GameStop manager, now working at ­Replay’d, a used electronics store in Allston. “You can tell they don’t want to, but once it’s on the counter, they’ve crossed the threshold.”

From his perch, Sawyer ­observed what will be an all-too-familiar scenario to many parents, particularly those with preteen and teenage boys: ­intense lobbying by the child; parental weakening, signaled by a laying-down of rules — “If I see you acting out any of this violence, the game is going!” — followed by children vowing to behave.

“They say ‘yes, yes, yes,’ ­because they just want to get to that prize,” Sawyer said.

Why do conflicted parents give in? Or let children play the games at friends’ houses? Alas, those are questions more easily asked by those who have never faced down a determined tween or teen.

Michael Rich, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Center on Media and Child Health, sees parents who are so eager to be friends with their children that they do not set limits.

“What I say to some parents is, it’s sort of like your kid asking you for a chainsaw,” he said. “Maybe your kid is a budding chain saw sculptor and really needs it and understands how to use it safely, but think it through.”

Rich believes parents should not wait for definitive evidence about a link between violent ­behavior and violent games.

“This is one of those situations where you can argue to the end of time [about whether violent games lead to violent behavior], as they did over ­tobacco and lung cancer,” he continued, “or you can take a step back and say: ‘What do I want my kid to learn? And what do I want him or her to ­become? How does everything I do contribute to that outcome?’ It’s not just about sucking up to kids, it’s about helping them ­become the kind of adults you want them to be.”

Just as the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School ratcheted up the discussion on gun control, the shootings have also spurred action on violent video games, in ways small and large.

In Newtown, after attending the funeral of a friend’s young brother, Max Goldstein, 12,­ announced he is giving up violent games and called on others to do the same with his “Played Out” campaign.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, has proposed a bill that would ­direct the National Academy of Sciences to study the effect of violent video games and content on children.

The Entertainment Software Association, a Washington, D.C.-based group that works on behalf of game makers, says video games do not cause violent behavior.

“Blaming video games for ­violence in the real world is no more productive than blaming the news media for bringing ­violent crimes into our homes night after night,” a statement on its website says. “Numerous authorities have examined the scientific record and found that it does not establish any causal link between media content and real-life violence.”

I'm not productive?

Some parents say that they do not worry the games will make children violent; they just hate that they enjoy them. Some almost beg their sons (and they are most often sons) to play Madden NFL 13 or other sports video games, which by comparison seem as benign as playing outdoors.

But the prevalence of the ­violent games makes them hard to avoid. Even if your child does not own “Call of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto” or “Assassin’s Creed,” a friend, or a friend’s older sibling, probably will.

Scott Weiner, of Mansfield, said he buys some games with violent content because he knows his older son, who is 13, will be exposed to them anyway, and he wants to educate himself.

“You might as well deal with it, because it’s going to happen anyway,” Weiner said.

His line of thinking will be familiar to many parents. “The first time my son asked for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 I was like, ‘No way. It will never happen.’ Then you realize their friends are getting the games.”

Weiner, the chief technology officer of Blue Hill Partners, and the manager of a forum for parent-friendly apps, ­, plays the games first, then lets his son know which settings he can use. “This way we can have a conversation about it.”

Even as the games are a source of near-constant friction in some homes, they can also cause stress between families — even when children are just having a play date, said Sandie Angulo Chen, a senior reviewer for Common Sense Media .

“Parents of this generation have to deal with screen protocols,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a preschooler watching TV, or tweens and teens and “M” rated videos (which are for players 17 and older). There are a lot of considerations that parents have to deal with when they ­allow kids to go on sleepover or just to a kid’s house down the street.”

Elsa Oberg, a part-time math teacher from Framingham, said the tension she feels over “Call of Duty” has nothing to do with other parents, but rather herself. About a year ago, after her son’s intense lobbying efforts, she caved and bought him the game.

“I’m antigun,” Oberg said, “and I can’t stand the NRA. But then my own son is downstairs playing this extremely violent game.”

And yet, she tells herself, he’s an excellent student, an athlete, and a nice boy with clean-cut friends.

“The game depresses me,” she said, “but I guess I chalk [his enjoyment] up to him ­being a 15-year-old boy.”

Let's hope he doesn't freak out someday and start shooting up the school.


Time to watch a movie:

"PG-13 violence a bow to video games, box office" by Ty Burr |  Globe Staff, November 22, 2013

A PG-13 rating no longer means what you think it means....

The ensuing uproar has been as loud and as moralistic as you’d expect, and the response from the Motion Picture Association of America has been as tone-deaf....

Let’s take a step back. The Annenberg report, as depressing as it is, may be more telling as a time-lapse study of an entertainment culture in the midst of profound change, a medium in decline, and a film industry running out of ideas. A careful parsing of the data makes a filmgoer and a parent mourn not what’s in the movies of the moment but what has been increasingly left out over the past three decades: humor, characters, surprise, and any genres beyond fantasy-action.

The study also makes you realize how deeply 25 years of video games have re-engineered expectations of narrative into a series of physical confrontations to be overcome by whatever force is necessary and/or imaginable. Fantasy-action movies, with their simplistic heroes-vs.-villains storylines and literal comic-book violence, are that much more familiar to a generation with twitchy thumbs.

I guess that's why I never go to the movies anymore.

As a research project, the study is solid work....

The study found that screen violence has more than doubled overall since 1950....

The researchers saw a clear and steady increase in the amount of violence in general, and gun violence specifically, over three decades of PG-13 films....

Simply put, PG-13 is where Hollywood now makes most of its money: All those sequels, remakes, action-fantasy franchises, and apocalyptic adventures are carefully written and edited to keep them out of both PG and R categories, since either would represent the loss of potential audiences and profits....

It’s only when you look at the kind of films being rated PG-13 over the last 30 years that you realize how much has changed and how dramatically. The rating was initially created in 1984 as a mid-point between PG and R after Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” freaked out tykes, parents, and editorialists with a scene of a heart being ripped out of a character’s chest. The following year, four films in the study’s sample received the new rating: “Cocoon,” “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” “White Nights,” and “Desperately Seeking Susan.” Only the second has the kind of action-fantasy violence that is now the norm for the category.

And so it goes for the next decade or so.

By the early 2000s, though, the franchise machinery was in full swing, abetted by a revolution in computer-generated special effects. The “Mummy” series was followed by “Lord of the Rings,” “Spider-Man,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and on and on in geometrical progression....

So, yes, all movies are more violent now, because of the video game paradigm, because spectacle sells better to overseas audiences, because the mainstream film industry is more concerned with servicing its invested properties than telling a good story.

The ratings board’s place in all this is decisive and helpful, but only for the movie studios that pay the bills. A straight-up trade organization, the MPAA exists to rubber-stamp major blockbusters, throw up roadblocks for anyone who tries anything different, and keep outside censors off the industry’s back. As a reflection of America’s enduring double standards — sex bad, violence good, the F-word OK but only twice a movie — it’s surprisingly accurate. As an enforceable policy, it’s a sham.

But lip service still has to be paid to “protecting the children,” even if the standards that supposedly protect them have warped beyond recognition. One aspect I wish the Annenberg study had delved into but didn’t — and, admittedly, it’s difficult to quantify — is the difference between gunplay in an R-rated movie and a film rated PG-13. I’m guessing that the latter features “softer,” less realistic gun violence: less blood, characters who drop dead without any muss or fuss, scenes that make guns an extension of play. Movies in which no one — or no one important — really gets hurt. Which, of course, may strike some of us as more offensive than a scene that shows what actually happens when a bullet tears up a human being’s insides.

Or blows up a head.

The big question remains whether gun violence in movies begets gun violence in reality. You don’t have to drag in the mass shootings of recent years (well, you can if you want to) to intuitively recognize that the options of response depicted in the media affects the options they consider available in life.

Hey, the heros do it to the bad guys in the movies.

Plenty of earlier studies have shown a correlation between onscreen aggression and youthful behavior off screen. The more dispiriting aspect of our current PG-13 battlefield is that it celebrates violent confrontation as the only drama available — the most marketable, and thus inevitable, aspect of our corporate franchise fairytales....

I'm reading one now.


How all you ladies liking the games?

"Women remain outsiders in video game industry; Female characters are hypersexualized and workers discomforted in an industry known for its frat boy culture" by Leah Burrows  |  Globe Correspondent, January 27, 2013

Marleigh Norton was attending a technical lecture on software architecture in video games last year when the presenter, an established game designer in his late 30s, clicked on a PowerPoint slide innocuously entitled “Dialogue Trees in CRPGs.” She found herself staring at a close-up of a voluptuous female buttocks.


For Norton, cofounder of and game developer at the Cambridge-based Green Door Labs, the slide and snickers that rippled through the predominantly male audience were reminders of the “boys locker room” mentality that permeates much of the video game business.

“If you are a woman in the industry, there are all these little signals that you are not part of the club, that this is not your tribe,” said Norton, 35. “After time, it wears you down.”

The billion-dollar video game industry is growing quickly with the explosion of mobile gaming, but women remain outsiders. Female game characters are hypersexualized, and female workers are frequently subjected to unequal treatment, harassment, and hostile atmospheres. At last year’s industry convention in San Francisco, for example, one company hired topless models for a professional networking event. Others sponsored parties with S&M themes.

It's called employing women. WTF is with the bitching?

The effects of this frat boy culture are captured in glaring industry statistics: Women account for only 11 percent of game designers and 3 percent of programmers, strikingly low even when compared with the broader fields of graphic design and technology, where women make up about 60 percent and 25 percent of employment respectively, according to surveys.

The girls aren't being tortured or raped, are they?

Also, women video game programmers earn an average of $10,000 a year less than their male counterparts, according to a salary survey published in 2011 by Gamer Developer magazine, and women designers make $12,000 less.

In Massachusetts, where video game employment has jumped nearly 80 percent since 2009 to more than 2,000, there are no statistics available on the number of women working at local companies, according to industry groups. But Tim Loew, executive director of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute, or MassDIGI, said there aren’t many.

“What you can pick up from women who work in the industry is that it’s not a fair place for them,” Loew said. “We have to do better because there is opportunity here for both genders.”

These issues attracted national attention in November when women spoke out in an industrywide Twitter conversation about feeling overlooked, unsafe, and unwelcome. Tens of thousands of gamers and developers — women and men — participated in the discussion, sparked by a question from an employee at the crowd-sourcing company Kickstarter: Why aren’t there more female game developers?

“Because conventions, where designers are celebrated, are unsafe places for me,” wrote Filamena Young, a game designer and co-owner of Machine Age Productions in Orange County, Calif. “Really. I’ve been groped.”

“Because I got blank stares when I asked why a female soldier in a game I worked on looked like a porn star,” responded Caryn Vaino, a user interface designer in Seattle.

I gotta start playing these games!

Amy Kaufman, 24, became the first woman to work on the 10-person staff at Nuukster, a Cambridge firm developing games for Facebook. She said in an interview that she was never harassed or made to feel uncomfortable, and was generally treated as an equal — notwithstanding a few “honeys” and “dears.”

But she bristled at a game the company was developing for middle-aged women, the largest demographic playing games on Facebook. It involved a mother bird building a nest, courting a mate, laying an egg, and raising the baby....

At least it is creative and nurturing as opposed to violent and destructive.

The small pool of women candidates has been a problem for other technology sectors, which in turn has spurred efforts by industry, higher education, and even the Girl Scouts to encourage girls and women to enter so-called STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and math.

See: Sunday Globe Special: Girl Scout Cookie 

I would clear them before continuing to play.

Some chief executives at video game companies acknowledge they need more women in the industry, since nearly half the customers are female, and women over 18 are the fastest growing demographic....


Such attitudes are beginning to change the atmosphere at video game companies, both men and women said. The overall percentage of women employed by video game companies has increased to 20 percent from 12 percent in 2005, but nearly all that growth has come in nontechnical fields such as public relations.

Jen MacLean, former chief executive of 38 Studios, Curt Schilling’s bankrupt video game company, said she expects the environment to improve further as the business grows up, maturing from garage start-ups to larger companies with professional managers who understand the value of diversity.

“Now, there is a recognition that women exist as consumers,” she said.

Today, there are local and national organizations promoting women in the industry. Mentoring programs connect young female developers with seasoned pros.

Most major gaming conferences have sexual harassment policies, and many conferences have started to eliminate “booth babes,” the scantily clad women used as promotional tools. Games themselves have started to include more female characters.

Why take a weapon away when it is what everyone else does?

Still, many video business insiders say there is a long way to go. “It’s true, the industry is not as actively bad as it used to be,” said Courtney Stanton, a game designer and founder of the networking group Women in Games Boston. “But not actively bad is an embarrassingly low bar.”

Speaking of low bars....

Anna Cail, 33, an avid gamer studying game design at Becker College in Worcester, said she sometime feels she is entering an industry “openly hostile towards” women.

As a gamer, Cail said, she has seen female players harassed, hit on, and asked to show their breasts via webcams. As a student, Cail said, she has had a few encounters with other students skeptical of her technical abilities because she is a woman.

So why get into the business?

“I was raised that when I see something wrong, I shouldn’t put my head down,” Cail said. “In games you don’t run and hide. You stand and fight. I can fight this fight.”

Game over.


What did you do last summer, kiddo?

"Students train to become video game designers" by Hiawatha Bray  |  Globe Staff, July 30, 2012

They were among 18 students, mostly from Massachusetts colleges, participating in a state-sponsored summer program aimed at developing the next generation of video game designers.

I guess all that worried about violence stuff is not serious.

“This summer, we have learned essentially how to be game developers,” said Ali Swei, one of Gengler’s colleagues on the Nanoswarm team, guiding a cloud of black particles down a white corridor, evading machine gun bullets....


"PAX East packs gamers in on first day of show" by Daniel B. Kline  |  Globe Staff, March 23, 2013

This weekend Boston is the center of the video gaming universe, as some 70,000 enthusiasts — some dressed in the costumes of their favorite characters — pack the annual PAX East show.

At Friday’s opening, the line to get into the Boston Convention and Expo Center stretched down Summer Street; once inside, fans were stacked wall-to-wall, with everything from simple game demos to celebrity panels drawing overflow crowds.

For many it’s a dress-up event: Outfits included gore-covered zombies, vixen-like fairies, and warriors sporting a futuristic-medieval hybrid look.


Star Wars costumes were also big, as were versions of the popular disc-jockey Deadmau5, whose music is featured in many video games, and who appears as an avatar in one. There were even concerts, with one of the headline acts the self-described “Nerdcore” rap pioneer MC Frontalot.

Though the big national game companies claimed the biggest real estate, the Boston event draws many of the smaller start-ups and independent game creators in the Boston area. And with its huge audience of videogame devotees, PAX East is also a proving ground where newcomers can make a name for themselves....


Also see:

Bear Schylling in the Boston Globe

Game developer to launch incubator

PlayStation 4 sales strong despite reports of defects

What do you mean my console is a pos!?!? 

Maybe you should play fantasy $ports instead.