Archive for the ‘Gaming & Culture’ Category

Lawrence of Arabia takes on Rasputin in first trailer for The King’s Man

July 15th, 2019

Ralph Fiennes plays T.E. Lawrence, who forms a fledgling spy agency in The King's Man, 20th Century Fox's prequel to the popular Kingsman film series.

Lawrence of Arabia is setting up an independent intelligence agency to take down Grigori Rasputin and Mata Hari, among others, in the first trailer for The King's Man. Even though it's Director Matthew Vaughan's prequel to his popular Kingsman franchise, the trailer is conspicuously lacking in the dark humor that made its predecessors so broadly appealing. But there's enough hyper-stylized action sequences to assure us that, stylistically, this will be very much a Kingsman movie.

(Spoilers for first two Kingsman films below.)

The Kingsman franchise is based on the Marvel comic series The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, which spawned two very successful action/comedy spy films. In the first film, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the young son of a deceased Kingsman agent, is recruited to follow in his father's footsteps by Harry Hart (Colin Firth), aka Galahad. (All the Kingsman agents take on the monikers of the Knights of the Round Table.)

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Posted in 20th century fox, Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, Kingsman, prequels, Trailers | Comments (0)

Why is there no smoking in Gears 5? It depends on who you ask

July 15th, 2019
Don't expect any more cigar-chomping characters to show up in the <em>Gears</em> games going forward.

Enlarge / Don't expect any more cigar-chomping characters to show up in the Gears games going forward.

The upcoming Gears 5 will not feature any on-screen depictions or references to smoking, according to the developers at The Coalition. But the precise sequence of events leading to that decision is apparently up for some debate.

The smoke-free story gained attention over the weekend with a report in Variety that linked the decision to a pressure campaign from the anti-smoking advocates at the Truth Initiative. According to Variety, The Coalition decided to remove the smoking references after Truth reached out to Turner Broadcasting, which featured Gears 5 as part of an invitational tournament filmed during its ELeague esports over the weekend.

That sequence seems plausible, especially considering that Truth is a presenting sponsor of the tournament, which is officially titled "Eleague Gears Summer Series Invitational powered by Truth." And Truth has a long history of pressuring media companies to remove smoking references from their products, a move that recently led to changes in Netflix's youth-focused programming.

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Posted in coalition, Gaming & Culture, Gears, Gears of War, smoking, truth | Comments (0)

Flay your mind: Stranger Things S3 just might be the show’s best season yet

July 15th, 2019
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the gang are back to face down yet another supernatural threat to Hawkins, Indiana, in the third season of <em>Stranger Things</em>

Enlarge / Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the gang are back to face down yet another supernatural threat to Hawkins, Indiana, in the third season of Stranger Things (credit: YouTube/Netflix)

Warning: This story contains spoilers for episodes 5-8 of Stranger Things' third season, following up on Nathan Matisse's slightly spoiler-y review of episodes 1-4. You can read our non-spoiler preview of the new season here, or catch up on what's come before with past Ars stories on season one and season two.

Everyone's favorite teen sleuthing squad is back, taking on Russian operatives, local corruption, and the latest supernatural evil to emerge from the Upside Down in the third season of Netflix's Stranger Things. Anyone who feared the series might be losing its luster, three years on, should rest easy: season three is just as good as the first—in some respects, even better.

The first season was set in November 1983, when an accident at a secret government lab opened an inter-dimensional portal and unleashed a supernatural threat from a different dimension onto the unsuspecting town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the form of a creature dubbed the Demogorgon. The source of that accident? A young girl with psychokinetic powers, known only as Eleven (Milly Bobby Brown). She escaped the lab and was befriended by a group of preteens whose friend Will (Noah Schnapp) mysteriously disappeared into an alternate dimension dubbed the Upside Down. They teamed up to find Will and defeat the monster that took him.

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Posted in Duffer brothers, Entertainment, Gaming & Culture, Netflix, Stranger Things S3, streaming television, Television, television review | Comments (0)

RetroArch will be Steam’s biggest emulation launch yet, coming July 30

July 13th, 2019
Coming to Steam on July 30.

Coming to Steam on July 30. (credit: Libretro)

RetroArch is coming to Steam as a free download on July 30, marking what appears to be the largest non-commercial emulation launch ever on Valve's digital download storefront. The news came on Friday via an announcement from Libretro, the open source development collective that maintains the RetroArch launcher app for a massive range of operating systems.

In an email interview with Ars Technica, Libretro's Daniel De Matteis claimed that the software's impending launch did not require any conversations with Steam over the storefront's rules about emulation. However, there does appear to be a fuzzy dance going on with this launch, as Friday's announcement includes the following curious claim: "While there is nothing particularly [sic] about RetroArch or the Libretro API that has anything to do with emulators, most do... use it for this purpose." We're not sure what other use case is enabled by RetroArch, honestly. Its menu system revolves around finding, downloading, updating, and booting "cores" that are dedicated to emulating classic video game consoles, and by default, it leads users to cores that advertise compatibility with games from popular consoles made by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and others.

While Valve doesn't appear to have any public-facing rules about whether emulators are allowed on Steam, the service does not currently host any popular emulators as free downloads. A pair of announcements about rules for Steam's discussion boards, meanwhile, make patently clear that discussions about emulators are expressly forbidden—and are classified as a "piracy" topic. Valve representatives did not immediately answer our questions about RetroArch.

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Posted in emulation, Gaming & Culture, libretro, retroarch | Comments (0)

Atari 2600 rarity Extra Terrestrials goes on sale for $90,000

July 13th, 2019

Got $90,000 burning a hole in your pocket? If so, you seemingly have a rare opportunity to purchase one of the rarest Atari 2600 games in existence.

Extra Terrestrials (not to be confused with the notorious movie-licensed Atari 2600 flop E.T.) was an actual Atari 2600 game sold near the tail end of the 2600's commercial existence in early 1984. But the cartridge was almost completely unknown, even among the Atari collecting community, until October of 2011. That's when a copy turned up as a contribution to Canada's Personal Computer Museum in Brantford, Ontario.

With a bit of research, curators at the museum were able to determine that the game's maker, Skill Screen Games, was centered around the Banting family of Burlington, Ontario (making this the only Canadian-produced Atari 2600 game, to boot). The Bantings, hoping to cash in on the Atari craze and the continuing hype around the E.T. movie, hired a programmer named Herman Quast to write a simple two-player maze game for the Atari 2600, with plans to sell that game through distributors for the 1983 holiday season.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture | Comments (0)

Stranger Things 3, eps. 1-4: Hawkins, Indiana, will never be the same

July 13th, 2019
Perhaps teen romance split 'em up initially, but you can't keep the gang apart for long if evil lurks around Hawkins.

Enlarge / Perhaps teen romance can split 'em up temporarily, but you can't keep the gang apart for long if evil lurks around Hawkins. (credit: Netflix)

Warning: This story contains some spoilers for episodes 1-4 of Stranger Things' third season. You can read our non-spoiler preview of the new season here, or catch up on what's come before with past Ars stories on season one and season two.

Russians. It always had to be Russians.

Maybe it should be called Gorbachev's Law, but put any kind of get-the-gang-together action story into the 1980s, and eventually modern democracy's favorite villain must rear its head. And in Stranger Things 3, the show wastes no time—this go-around may be once again centered in Hawkins, but S3's very first scene shows there's no going back after the events of the show's first two seasons. The scope and scale of evil facing our favorite now-teenage heroes grows simultaneously as they do.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, Netflix, Stranger Things S3 | Comments (0)

Want to be more creative? Playing Minecraft can help, new study finds

July 12th, 2019

Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile's latest study suggests that playing some video games, like Minecraft, can have a positive impact on creativity.

Minecraft is one of the most popular computer games, having sold more than 100 million copies since its release in 2011. Claims that it boosts creativity have been circulating for several years, and now there's a bit of scientific evidence to back up that claim, according to the results of a new study published in Creativity Research Journal.

Co-author Douglas Gentile is a psychologist at Iowa State University. His speciality is studying media influence on children, including video games, television, film, music, even advertising. That includes both positive and negative effects, from video game addiction and a possible link between media violence and aggression, to how playing certain games can improve surgeons' skills.

"The literature looks like it's conflicted when it truly isn't," said Gentile. "There's studies showing games increase aggression, and others showing it can increase prosocial behavior. From the outside it looks like they must be good or bad, but that's not the way the world really works. This dichotomous thinking doesn't allow us to actually see what's going on, because we pick one idea and then we apply it to everything."

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Posted in gaming, Gaming & Culture, Minecraft, Psychology, science | Comments (0)

Evidence points to another Switch hardware revision on the horizon

July 12th, 2019
Could changes be coming to the Tegra X1 chip that powers the Nintendo Switch?

Enlarge / Could changes be coming to the Tegra X1 chip that powers the Nintendo Switch?

Wednesday's announcement of the Switch Lite put to rest months of credible rumors that a miniature, portable-focused Switch was on the horizon. But Nintendo still has yet to confirm the other side of some of those rumors: suggestions that the company is planning to upgrade the Switch's internal hardware in the near future.

Nintendo CEO Doug Bowser recently told CNET that no further updates to the original Switch hardware are coming this year. But that hasn't stopped Nintendo-watchers from trying to glean information about Nintendo's future hardware plans from various tea leaves.

Following the evidence

The most concrete of these hints is an FCC request (noticed by The Verge) that Nintendo filed July 2, seeking a "class II permission change" for the original Switch model. The request says the new hardware revision will feature a "change of SoC type," a "change of NAND memory type," and a new CPU board to accommodate those changes.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, Nintendo, NVIDIA, Switch, Tegra | Comments (0)

Stuber review: The world’s worst Uber ride becomes pure popcorn comedy

July 12th, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas—July has barely gotten underway, but we have finally reached peak 2019. This weekend, a film whose entire premise hinges unironically on the modern app-driven gig economy will hit theaters.

"Uber hates this movie, by the way," comedian Kumail Nanjiani said after a crowd of RTX Austin 2019 attendees just watched his ridesharing-meets-'80s-buddy-cop flick, Stuber. "It's about a guy who kidnaps someone in an Uber—it's like if Titanic was made for Carnival cruise ships."

If hearing "Uber" and "movie" that close together immediately gives you chills, don't fret: Stuber proves to be less of a marketing grab than Stranger Things 3. The ubiquitous modern taxi company had no direct involvement even though it had a role to play, says director Michael Dowse. That's because of the Kleenex principle: using a fake brand would take people out of the film immediately.

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Posted in Dave Bautista, film, Gaming & Culture, Kumail Nanjiani, Uber | Comments (0)

Lion King remake review: Roaring visuals, but the execution is a hairball

July 12th, 2019
You would <em>not</em> like Adult Simba when he's angry.

Enlarge / You would not like Adult Simba when he's angry. (credit: Disney)

You have definitely seen The Lion King before. That sentence applies to both the 1994 Disney classic and next week's CGI-filled remake. This new version, premiering worldwide on Friday, July 19, has been remade in such a stark, scene-by-scene manner that there's no point in slapping a spoiler warning on this article. Every character from the box-office-dominating Disney classic has returned to retread every plot point and sing every familiar, chart-topping song.

But Disney wants very badly to convince you that you have not seen The Lion King like this, and in some ways, that sales pitch is accurate. I can confirm that the latest film from director Jon Favreau is enough of a technical masterpiece to usher in a new level of the question, "is that CGI?" Photorealistic flora and fauna pack each frame of this film, which Favreau directed, in part, by putting on VR headsets and aiming his virtual camera at raw digital assets.

But while Favreau clearly has the right technology⁠—and the right attitude over how to render his star characters—his efforts are hobbled by the baggage that is a beloved, bubbly Disney film.

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Posted in Disney, film review, film reviews, Gaming & Culture, movie review, Movie reviews, The Lion King | Comments (0)