Archive for the ‘gaming’ Category

Study casts doubt on value of WHO’s “gaming disorder” diagnoses

October 22nd, 2019
Stock photo of angry young men playing video games.

Enlarge / Two gamers with obvious unmet psychological needs. (credit: Philip Sowels/​Future Publishing/​Shutterstock)

Since the World Health Organization proposed new diagnoses for "hazardous gaming" and "gaming disorder" last year, there's been an ongoing scientific debate about which way the causation for these issues really goes. Does an excessive or addictive relationship with gaming actually cause psychological problems, or are people with existing psychological problems simply more likely to have an unhealthy relationship with gaming?

A recent study by Oxford's Internet Institute, published in the open access journal Clinical Psychological Science, lends some support to the latter explanation. But it also highlights just how many of the game industry's most devoted players may also be driven by some unmet psychological needs.

Getting at the problem

To study how so-called "dysfunctional gaming" relates to psychological needs and behaviors, the Oxford researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,004 UK adolescents and their caregivers. They asked the caregivers to evaluate their adolescents' levels of "psychosocial functioning:" how well the adolescents are able to internalize or externalize problems in their lives as evidenced by their behavior.

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Posted in gamind disorder, gaming, Gaming & Culture, Psychology, WHO | Comments (0)

Thousands of DOS games have been added to the Internet Archive

October 14th, 2019
Promotional image for video game Wizardry.

Enlarge / Just one of the games added to the archive recently. (credit: Sir-Tech)

The Internet Archive has been updated with more than 2,500 DOS games, marking the most significant addition of games to the archive since 2015.

New additions include forgotten classics like Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark SavantPrincess Maker 2, and Microsoft Adventure, a rebranding of Colossal Caves Adventure. They also include a whole lot of weird, early experiments and dead ends that should be fascinating to explore for historians, technologists, game designers, and players alike.

The blog post announcing the additions includes some disclaimers: not all games will run as speedily as one might like, not all games have manuals available (though some do), and frankly, not all games from these bygone areas are enjoyable by modern standards.

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Posted in Browser games, DOS, DOS games, emulation, eXoDOS, Games, gaming, Gaming & Culture, Internet Archive, Jason Scott, MS-DOS | Comments (0)

Staffsource: Ars staffers reminisce on the games that made them gamers

August 22nd, 2019
Staffsource: Ars staffers reminisce on the games that made them gamers

Enlarge

Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game-lovers, we'll be serving up extra reviews, guides, interviews, and other stories all about gaming from August 19 to August 23.

While it's exciting (and a bit overwhelming) to think about all the new games we want to play, it's fun to occasionally walk down memory lane and remember the first games we ever played. For the Ars staff, our lists of nostalgic games are exhaustive, but a few titles still stand out as the true gateways to the years of gaming that followed.

These might not be the very first games we played, or even the games we played the most during our youth, but they do hold a special place in our hearts for sparking something inside of us that made us continue to seek out games to feed our needs for action, adventure, strategy, escape, and more.

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Posted in Ars Gaming Week 2019, Games, gaming, Gaming & Culture, gateway games, Staff, staffsource | Comments (0)

Guidemaster: Navigating the hazy world of gaming laptops in 2019

August 19th, 2019
Amid the chaos of the Ars Gaming Week testing lab, we took a moment to snap a photo of <em>some</em> of our preferred gaming laptops. But are they right for you? Not necessarily! Hence, here's our careful guide on the topic.

Enlarge / Amid the chaos of the Ars Gaming Week testing lab, we took a moment to snap a photo of some of our preferred gaming laptops. But are they right for you? Not necessarily! Hence, here's our careful guide on the topic. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game-lovers, we'll be serving up extra reviews, guides, interviews, and other stories all about gaming from August 19 to August 23.

Putting together an ideal gaming desktop computer isn't always the easiest task, but at least it's a controlled kind of chaos. When building a PC, we can individually rank each component type—from CPUs to GPUs, from speakers to monitors—and aspiring builders can feel out their options for each within hearty system-builder guides. Barebones budgets, small form factors, pricey beasts: we can offer tips for each, then let shoppers mix and match those recommendations as they see fit.

The same cannot be said for gaming laptops. There's no simple way to break out and individually test laptops' big-ticket components, and singling out one gaming laptop is tough in a sector that has often suffered from bulk, heft, expense, and ugly designs. When you buy into one good thing in a gaming laptop, you're buying into its every other element, good and bad, with no ability to swap. How much worse does that get when you're stuck with a firm budget?

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Posted in Ars Gaming Week 2019, Features, gaming, Gaming & Culture, gaming laptops, guidemaster, Tech | Comments (0)

Journey creator’s Sky debuts on iPhone and iPad

July 19th, 2019

This week marks the launch of Sky: Children of Light, a game from famed designed Jenova Chen and beloved studio thatgamecompany, on iOS devices. Intended as an entry point to gaming that upends conventions and seeks new ranges of emotional expression, Sky was revealed during Apple's iPhone keynote in 2017 as a mobile-first game and an iOS exclusive at launch.

The game is expected to arrive on Android, Mac, Apple TV, Windows PC, and consoles sometime in the future, though. Its initial wide launch this week follows a long soft-launch period and a launch-date delay as the game went through some big changes in testing to get its social aspects—a key part of the experience—just right.

In Sky, you play as a nondescript, child-like being who walks and flies through varied 3D environments collecting light, helping beings, solving puzzles, and working with friends to bring light back to your world.

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Posted in apple, Apple App Store, gaming, Gaming & Culture, iOS, ipad, iphone, iPod touch, Jenova Chen, mobile games, Sky, thatgamecompany, USC | Comments (0)

Losing yourself in virtual worlds can have good as well a negative effects

July 17th, 2019
A visitor holds a hand control unit to play Minecraft during the EGX gaming conference in London, September 2014.

Enlarge / A visitor holds a hand control unit to play Minecraft during the EGX gaming conference in London, September 2014. (credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Pete Etchells lost his father to motor neuron disease as a teenager, and often, when the anniversary of his death rolled around, he found solace in playing video games, like hunting for the elusive Time Lost Proto-Drake in World of Warcraft. Gaming started as an escape, but over time, he found those virtual worlds helped him grapple with the difficult questions of human mortality and death. He even recreated a log cabin in Minecraft, drawing on memories of where he'd stayed at Yosemite on vacation with his father.

Now a psychologist at Bath Spa University in England but still an avid gamer, Etchells specializes in understanding the behavioral effects—both positive and negative—of video games. He chose that focus after going on an alcohol-fueled pub rant as a graduate student, annoyed by a fear-mongering newspaper headline claiming that computer games cause dementia in children. He knew from personal experience how gaming had helped him process his grief, and his research has helped bring concrete evidence to bear on the lingering debate about whether video games are bad for you.

Etchells explores all this and more in his first book, Lost in a Good Game—part personal memoir, part cultural history, part popular science. Ars sat down with Etchells to learn more about how gaming can be a force for good, instead of rotting our collective brains.

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Posted in books, gaming, Gaming & Culture, Lost in a Good Game, Psychology, science | Comments (0)

Facebook AI Pluribus defeats top poker professionals in 6-player Texas Hold ‘em

July 11th, 2019

This video shows sample hands from Pluribus' experiment against professional poker players. Cards are turned face up to make it easier to see Pluribus' strategy. Courtesy of Carnegie-Mellon University.

Poker-playing AIs typically perform well against human opponents when the play is limited to just two players. Now Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook AI research scientists have raised the bar even further with an AI dubbed Pluribus, which took on 15 professional human players in six-player no-limit Texas Hold 'em and won. The researchers describe how they achieved this feat in a new paper in Science.

Playing more than 5,000 hands each time, five copies of the AI took on two top professional players: Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, six-time winner of World Series of Poker events, and Darren Elias, who currently holds the record for most World Poker Tour titles. Pluribus defeated them both. It did the same in a second experiment, in which Pluribus played five pros at a time, from a pool of 13 human players, for 10,000 hands.

Co-author Tuomas Sandholm of Carnegie Mellon University has been grappling with the unique challenges poker poses for AI for the last 16 years. No-Limit Texas Hold 'em is a so-called "imperfect information" game, since there are hidden cards (held by one's opponents in the hand) and no restrictions on the size of the bet one can make. By contrast, with chess and Go, the status of the playing board and all the pieces are known by all the players. Poker players can (and do) bluff on occasion, so it's also a game of misleading information.

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Posted in AI, Facebook AI, Facebook Research, gaming, Gaming & Culture, Pluribus, poker, science, Texas Hold 'Em | Comments (0)

Apple expands tvOS gaming with PS4, Xbox One S controller support

June 3rd, 2019
Controller not shown to scale.

Enlarge / Controller not shown to scale.

At the 2019 WWDC keynote today, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company is expanding Apple TV controller support to include "two of the best and most popular game controllers available, Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4" with the next tvOS update. Note that this expansion does not include original Xbox One control pads that shipped with the 2013 version of the system—only the Bluetooth-equipped controller update that premiered alongside Microsoft's One S update in 2016 will work with Apple TV.

The announcement, which drew large and sustained applause in the presentation hall, comes nearly four years after Apple's second-generation Apple TV became the company's first foray into TV-based gaming since the ill-fated Pippin. At launch, Apple TV games were required to support the hardware's touchpad-focused, tilt-sensitive remote, and those games could optionally support any number of MFi controllers already designed for mobile iOS hardware. While Apple reversed that decision in mid-2016 to allow-for MFi-exclusive games, Apple TV game developers continue to complain about the fragmented control landscape on Apple's set-top box.

Apple TV currently plays host to thousands of games, including many noteworthy "Universal" ports of titles originally designed for mobile iOS platforms. But some big-budget attempts to bring console-style gaming to the hardware have failed—Guitar Hero Live, Disney Infinity, and Minecraft are just a few of the franchises that have aborted attempts at Apple TV support in the last few years.

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Posted in apple, Apple TV, gaming, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Sony, Tech | Comments (0)

Google’s AI group moves on from Go, tackles Quake III Arena

May 30th, 2019
Representations of bots on a Quake map.

Enlarge / Representation of some of the behaviors developed by the FTW algorithm. (credit: Deep Mind)

Google's AI subsidiary Deep Mind has built its reputation by building systems that learn to play games by playing each other, starting with little more than the rules and what constitutes a win. That Darwinian approach of improvement through competition has allowed Deep Mind to tackle complex games like chess and Go, where there are vast numbers of potential moves to consider.

But at least for board games like those, the potential moves are discrete and don't require real-time decisionmaking. It wasn't unreasonable to question whether the same approach would work for completely different classes of games. Such questions, however, seem to be answered by a report in today's issue of Science, where Deep Mind reveals the development of an AI system that has taught itself to play Quake III Arena and can consistently beat human opponents in capture-the-flag games.

Not a lot of rules

Chess' complexity is built from an apparently simple set of rules: an 8 x 8 grid of squares and pieces that can only move in very specific ways. Quake III Arena, to an extent, gets rid of the grid. In capture-the-flag mode, both sides start in a spawn area and have a flag to defend. You score points by capturing the opponent's flag. You can also gain tactical advantage by "tagging" (read "shooting") your opponents, which, after a delay, sends them back to their spawn.

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Posted in AI, Computer science, Deep Mind, gaming, quake III, science | Comments (0)

Xbox Game Pass is coming to Windows 10, but many questions remain

May 30th, 2019
Well, there you have it.

Enlarge / Well, there you have it.

In one of the less-detailed announcements of the pre-E3 season, Microsoft this morning officially confirmed it is bringing its "all-you-can-play" Game Pass subscription service to the PC. The new expansion of the Xbox Game Pass (which launched just over two years ago) "will give players unlimited access to a curated library of over 100 high-quality PC games on Windows 10, from well-known PC game developers and publishers such as Bethesda, Deep Silver, Devolver Digital, Paradox Interactive, SEGA and more," according to an announcement from Microsoft.

Games from Microsoft's own studios, including recent acquisitions Obsidian and inXile, will be available on Xbox Game Pass for PC on the day they're released, just as they are on Xbox One. Game Pass members will also receive discounts of up to 20% on Windows Store games and up to 10% off of DLC and add-on purchases.

Aside from that, though, Microsoft's announcement leaves a lot of major holes. While the "Xbox Game Pass for PC" shares a name with the company's "original" gaming subscription plan, it's not clear if PC subscriptions will be considered separate, or available as a bundle with the console plan, or included in Microsoft's upcoming "Game Pass Ultimate," or some combination of all of the above. Microsoft also didn't discuss any pricing details, launch timing for the service, any specific included games, or whether or not Game Pass on PC downloads would be limited to Microsoft's own Windows Store. Microsoft has promised to reveal more at its June 9 E3 press conference.

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Posted in gaming, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Windows, xbox game pass | Comments (0)