Archive for the ‘Gaming & Culture’ Category

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, video games, and the new online town square

January 21st, 2019

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of people—including one sitting US Congressperson—gathered online to watch a marathon stream of someone playing Donkey Kong 64. The most notable thing about this, perhaps, was just how little organic interest in Donkey Kong 64 actually had to do with much of the gathering.

Let me back up a little bit. The main, ostensible purpose for Harry "Hbomberguy" Brewis' "Donkey Kong Nightmare Stream" was that he simply wanted to beat Donkey Kong 64, as he put it on YouTube. DK64 was a game Brewis said he "never finished properly as a kid... I want to destroy Donkey Kong 64, so until that has been achieved, the stream doesn't stop. I don't care if I fall asleep. I don't care if I run out of food. The stream will continue."

But the stream was also set up as a fundraiser for Mermaids, a UK-based gender-dysphoria charity that has recently been criticized by TV writer and comedian Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd, Father Ted). And Brewis was clear that Linehan's words also served as a direct motivation for the charity marathon.

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Old Gods and New Gods prepare for war in new trailer for American Gods S2

January 20th, 2019

Second trailer for American Gods season 2, which debuts on Starz March 10.

We're less than two months away from the season 2 debut of American Gods, the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel, and Starz has rewarded fans' patience with a shiny new trailer.

(Spoilers for first season below.)

In season 1, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), a recently released convict, falls in with the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) as his bodyguard, after losing his wife, Laura (Emily Browning). But Mr. Wednesday is not who he seems. He's actually the ancient Norse god Odin seeking to rally all the remaining Old Gods, who are slowly dying off from people's lack of belief. Their mission: beat back the encroaching influence of all the New Gods so they can survive.

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Posted in American Gods, Entertainment, Gaming & Culture, Neil Gaiman, Starz, Television, Trailers | Comments (0)

Intrepid scientist corrects physiology in Gulliver’s Travels after 300 years

January 20th, 2019
Title page of first edition of Jonathan Swift's <em>Gulliver's Travels</em>, relating the fictional adventures of one Lemuel Gulliver.

Enlarge / Title page of first edition of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, relating the fictional adventures of one Lemuel Gulliver. (credit: Meisei University Library, Tokyo, Japan)

Gulliver's Travels is justly regarded as one of the best satirical novels of all time, although its author, Jonathan Swift, claimed he wrote the book "to vex the world rather than divert it." Politicians of the time were indeed vexed at being mocked in its pages. It seems the author's physiological descriptions also proved a bit vexatious, according to a charming new paper in the Journal of Physiological Sciences.

First published in 1726, Gulliver's Travels relates the fictional adventures of one Lemuel Gulliver, "first a surgeon and then a captain of several ships," according to the book's lengthy subtitle. During his voyages, Gulliver encounters several unusual species: the tiny people of Lilliput, the giants of Brobdingnag, talking horses called Houyhnhnms who rule over the deformed, uncouth Yahoos, and the inhabitants of the flying island of Laputa, who devote themselves to the study of science and the arts but have never figured out how to apply that knowledge for practical applications. Apart from its literary qualities, Gulliver's Travels provided ample fodder for eagle-eyed experts, since Swift couldn't resist going into great detail about the physiology of his fictional species, practically inviting closer scrutiny.

Toshio Kuroki, special advisor to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and Gifu University, read Gulliver's Travels for the first time with his book club. Having spent a long, prestigious career conducting cancer research, Kuroki immediately noticed an error on Swift's part when estimating Gulliver's energy requirements compared to that of the diminutive Lilliputions. It spurred him to look more closely at similar passages in the book, and to make his own comparative physiological analysis of the fictional creatures encountered by Gulliver during his travels.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, Gulliver's Travels, Literature, pedantic pondering, physiology, science | Comments (0)

How Buke and Gase built a huge indie rock career—and its own guitars, software

January 19th, 2019

NEW YORK CITY—The band brings to the stage: two grids of foot-triggered effects pedals and switches; two music stands, covered with a smattering of synthesizers, touchscreens, and touch-sensitive pads; two laptops, connected to this variety of inputs in a center console; two stringed instruments, neither of which look exactly like a bass or a guitar; and two foot-triggered pieces of percussion.

One of those is a compact kick-drum rig, connected to that array of laptops. The other is a bicycling shoe with tambourine parts welded onto its sides and sole.

This pre-show array of gear usually elicits curious looks from crowds who wonder what kind of noise is about to emerge. But the band Buke and Gase are here for a homecoming show of sorts. They're fresh off a nationwide tour with Shellac, among the esteemed post-punk bands to have ties to the genre's original DIY movement. They've just put the final touches on their new album, titled Scholars, set to launch two months later (as in, January 18). People are here to celebrate.

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Posted in buke and gase, experimental music, Gaming & Culture | Comments (0)

Star Trek: Discovery’s second season may boldly go where the first did not

January 18th, 2019
Michael Burnham is all of us.

Enlarge / Michael Burnham is all of us. (credit: CBS)

In many ways, this season felt very much like a much-needed reset from the previous one. The Klingon war is over, and the Federation is consumed by a new scientific pursuit: mysterious red bursts of light that have appeared across 30,000 light years.

The scene that really drove home the reset was the formal roll call, where our bridge characters say their names—really, directly to the audience.

It’s still baffling that we went an entire season without knowing most of the bridge crew’s names! Yes, we sort of got to know a handful of characters, but there are regular faces that we’ve seen many times on the bridge. If like the other shows, where the bulk of each episode happens in the nerve center of the ship, it would help to know who we’re interacting with.

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Posted in burnham, Discovery, Gaming & Culture, sarek, spock, Star Trek | Comments (0)

Mortal Kombat 11 gameplay as seen by a ‘90s arcade rat

January 17th, 2019
Scorpion has come a long way in <em>Mortal Kombat 11</em>, but he's still a golden ninja with flaming powers, so it works for me.

Enlarge / Scorpion has come a long way in Mortal Kombat 11, but he's still a golden ninja with flaming powers, so it works for me.

I was 15 when Mortal Kombat first hit the arcades in 1992. It was a different era then—no social media, no modern Internet to speak of, and we didn't have year-long teaser campaigns for new games. You would just walk into the arcade one day and there was a new cabinet sitting there, maybe back in a corner, like a secret, or maybe in the center of the floor, already gathering a crowd.

Being nostalgic for your teenage years is easy, and I don't want to over-mythologize the arcade of my youth. But there was something special about getting those surprises, and we've lost that. It seems rare now to be hit with the unexpected—dodging spoilers is practically a contact sport. Here was this game like nothing else we'd seen before, and it just appeared.

We were already fighting-game players. Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury, World Heroes—we dropped our quarters into every game we could get our hands on. But Mortal Kombat was different.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, Mortal Kombat | Comments (0)

Ars community gives more than $20,000 in annual charity drive

January 17th, 2019
Ars community gives more than $20,000 in annual charity drive

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A month ago, I asked readers to donate to our 2018 Charity Drive sweepstakes. All told, Ars Technica readers donated $20,210.66 to Child's Play and the EFF through the charity drive. That brings our total donations over 12 years of charity driving over the $300,000 mark! Well done, Arsians!

Thanks to everyone who gave whatever they could. We're still early in the process of selecting and notifying winners of our swag giveaway, so don't fret if you haven't heard if you're a winner yet. In the meantime, enjoy these quick stats from the 2018 drive.

  • 2018 Fundraising total: $20,210.66
    • Total given to Child's Play: $6,739.69
    • Total given to the EFF: $13,470.97
  • Number of individual donations: 305
    • Child's Play donations: 145
    • EFF donations: 160
  • Average donation: $66.26
    • Child's Play average donation: $52.37
    • EFF average donation: $84.19
  • Median donation: $25 (even)
    • Median Child's Play donation: $25
    • Median EFF donation: $37.50 (even)
  • Top single donation: $1,500 (to EFF)
  • Donations of $1,000 or more: 3
  • Donations of $100 or more: 65
  • $1 donations: 3 (every little bit helps!)
  • Total charity donations from Ars Technica drives since 2007 (approximate): $302,925.90
    • 2017: $36,012.37
    • 2016: $38,738.11
    • 2015: $38,861.06
    • 2014: $25,094.31
    • 2013: $23,570.13
    • 2012: $28,713.52
    • 2011: ~$26,000
    • 2010: ~$24,000
    • 2009: ~$17,000
    • 2008: ~$12,000
    • 2007: ~$10,000

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Here’s the action-packed first trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

January 17th, 2019

Keanu Reeves is on the run with his trusty canine companion in first trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum.

Everyone's favorite reluctant assassin is on the run with a $14 million bounty on his head, and few allies, in the action-packed first trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum.

(Spoilers for first two movies below.)

For those who missed the first two movies in the trilogy, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a legendary hitman (known as "Baba Yaga") who tried to retire when he fell in love and got married. Unfortunately, he's drawn back into the dark underground world by an act of senseless violence after her death. As Wick mourns Helen's passing, Iosef Tarasov, the son of a Russian crime syndicate, breaks in, kicks him unconscious, and steals his classic 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1. On top of all that, Tarasov kills the little dog, Daisy, that Helen gave to John to comfort him. From there, there's really no hope for Iosef. Nothing will stop John Wick from seeking retribution.

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Posted in Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, John Wick, Keanu Reeves, sequels, Trailers | Comments (0)

Bethesda confirms bans for visiting hidden Fallout 76 “developer room”

January 17th, 2019

Video showing the contents of the hidden "developer room" in Fallout 76.

Fallout 76 developer Bethesda has confirmed it is issuing temporary bans to players who access a hidden "developer room" full of lucrative and unreleased items for the online game.

News of the room's existence on Fallout 76 servers started leaking out publicly last week, with videos showing an area filled with boxes containing every legitimate item in the game, as well as a few cosmetics and weapons that have yet to be officially released (and a curious human-like NPC named "Wooby.") Details of the apparent teleport hack being used to access the room in the PC version of the game were harder to come by without lurking in private Discord channels and hacking forums, though.

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Posted in bans, bethesda, developer room, fallout 76, Gaming & Culture, hack, moderation | Comments (0)

Unity clarifies ToS changes, welcomes back “unsupported” SpatialOS

January 16th, 2019
Unity clarifies ToS changes, welcomes back “unsupported” SpatialOS

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Days after a nasty public split with cloud gaming developer Improbable, Unity has reinstated the company's license and updated its own terms of service to offer what it is calling a "commitment to being an open platform."

"When you make a game with Unity, you own the content and you should have the right to put it wherever you want," Unity wrote in a blog post explaining the move. "Our TOS didn’t reflect this principle—something that is not in line with who we are."

The new terms of service allow Unity developers to integrate any third-party service into their projects, no questions asked. As a caveat, though, Unity will now distinguish between "supported" third-party services—those Unity ensures will "always [run] well on the latest version of our software"—and "unsupported" third-party services, which developers use at their own risk.

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