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Original author: 
Soulskill

trendspotter points out this research from Duke University: "Hours spent at the video gaming console not only train a player's hands to work the buttons on the controller, they probably also train the brain to make better and faster use of visual input, according to Duke University researchers (abstract). 'Gamers see the world differently,' said Greg Appelbaum, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Duke School of Medicine. 'They are able to extract more information from a visual scene.' ... Each participant was run though a visual sensory memory task that flashed a circular arrangement of eight letters for just one-tenth of a second. After a delay ranging from 13 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds, an arrow appeared, pointing to one spot on the circle where a letter had been. Participants were asked to identify which letter had been in that spot. At every time interval, intensive players of action video games outperformed non-gamers in recalling the letter."

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Original author: 
Soulskill

schirra writes "The MIT Game Lab has just released the graphics/physics engine from its popular game A Slower Speed of Light as an open-source project, allowing anyone to play around with the effects of special relativity using Unity3D. While the hope is that game developers and educators will use OpenRelativity to develop new kinds of relativistic games and simulations, that shouldn't stop those with a casual interest from playing around with these wicked cool effects. For the physics inclined, these effects include Lorentz contraction, time dilation, Doppler shift, and the searchlight effect--though a PhD in theoretical physics isn't required to enjoy or use the project."

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Original author: 
Cory Doctorow

Dr. Tom Murphy VII gave a research paper called "The First Level of Super Mario Bros. is Easy with Lexicographic Orderings and Time Travel . . . after that it gets a little tricky," (PDF) (source code) at SIGBOVIK 2013, in which he sets out a computational method for solving classic NES games. He devised two libraries for this: learnfun (learning fuction) and playfun (playing function). In this accompanying video, he chronicles the steps and missteps he took getting to a pretty clever destination.

learnfun & playfun: A general technique for automating NES games (via O'Reilly Radar)     

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Original author: 
Soulskill

littlekorea writes "Mining companies are developing new systems for automating blasting of iron ore using the same open source physics engines adapted for games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. The same engine that determines 3D collision detection and soft body/rigid body dynamics in gaming will be applied to building 3D blast movement models — which will predict where blasted materials will land and distinguish between ore and waste. Predictive blast fragmentation models used in the past have typically been either numerical or empirical, [mining engineer Alan Cocker] said. Numerical models such as discrete element method, he noted, are onerous to configure and demanding of resources — both computing and human — and are generally not appropriate for operational use at mines. 'The problem with empirical models, by contrast, is that they tend to operate at a scale too coarse to give results useful for optimizations,' he added, noting typical Kuz-Ram-based fragmentation models (PDF) (widely used to estimate fragmentation from blasting) assume homogeneous geology (the same type of materials) throughout a blast."

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An anonymous reader writes "Have the storytelling capabilities of the two already met? A New Yorker interview with Gears of War 4 writer Tom Bissell explores the question. Bissell says, 'More and more, I’m seeing that games are mining good, old-fashioned human anxieties for their drama, and that’s really promising. Games, more and more, are not just about shooting and fighting, and for that reason I’m optimistic and heartened about where the medium is heading, because I think game designers are getting more interested in making games that explore what it means to be alive. ... At the same time, though, pure storytelling is never going to be the thing that games do better than anything. Games are primarily about a connection between the player, the game world, and the central mechanic of the game. They’re about creating a space for the player to engage with that mechanic and have the world react in a way that feels interesting and absorbing but also creates a sense of agency. So writing, in games, is about creating mood and establishing a basic sense of intent. The player has some vague notion of what the intent of the so-called author is, but the power of authorship is ultimately for the player to seize for him or herself.'"

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William Volk may not be the world's oldest game designer, but he's up there. He started out as a play tester for Avalon Hill in 1979, and since then has worked for Activision and other major players in the game space. His current job is with PlayScreen, where he's working on their Word Carnivale iOS game, which is not violent at all. But over the years Volk has worked on slightly violent video games and has watched public outcries over video game violence since 1976. He's also tracked how much less violence we've seen since lead was removed from gasoline. (Editorial interjection: Aren't most remaining pockets of massive gun violence in cities where many poor kids grow up in apartments that have lead paint?) Due to technical problems during the interview, some of the conversation is missing, primarily about the recent spate of multiple murders. It seems, for instance, that Newtown shooter Adam Lanza was heavily into violent video games, which is sure to spark plenty of new discussion about how they affect players. But then again, as Volk reminded me in an email, "If people were influenced by video games, a majority of Facebook users would be farmers by now," a meme that has been floating around Facebook since last year, if not earlier.

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On Coinheist.com, a crossword puzzle you solve by interpreting regular expressions.

PDF download

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OutRun was a great game, a true classic that came to define the mid-80s renaissance of arcade culture. As its buzz died down, though, my friends and I, arcade rats all, traded (and invented) rumors about the forthcoming sequel. One of the beautiful lies one of my pals came up with was OutRun Nights, which he swore to God he had seen in a conveniently-distant arcade in Torbay where he'd just been on holiday.

Unfortunately, none of the real sequels were remotely a good as the original, let alone as fused to the collective consciousness of children raised by the NTSC avatars of David Hasselhoff and Jan-Michel Vincent. To this day, however, I sincerely believe in the parallel Segaverse and thought it worthy of sharing, with just a few tips of the hat to modernity. Specs follow:

OutRun Nights is a hack of the original, or should play as if it were: Sega System 16 hardware, a mess of sprites scaled like crazy over a 320x224 display.

•No stage takes place during daytime; the first is dusk, the last is dawn.

•The setting is moved from daytime SoCal to Miami by night. Your Ferrari Testarossa Convertible is traded in for a Lamborghini Countach.

•There's no time limit. Speedruns only! But maybe you don't want to attract too much attention, given the fancy motor. Who knows what you are up to? An achievement -- Reliable Courier -- is conferred upon those who complete the whole game at the lowest possible speed.

•The cabinet would have a glass table at the back.

•Replacing the Hawaii-Cali sunshine music of the oringal are languid streetlit crawlings such as Com Truise's Video Arkade, Lazerhawk's So Far Away and Lindstrøm's Ra Ako Ost. Jan Hammer would play on the final stage. Then, at the end, the world collapses into irony or somesuch

UPDATE: Commenter Andrew points out a project to decompile and recreate the original arcade OutRun in C++, which has already resulted not only in a pixel-perfect port to modern systems, but a host of bug-fixes and improvements. Best of all, it looks like we might be able to use it to create OutRun Nights for real!

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First time accepted submitter JacobAlexander writes "Writing in PNAS, a University of Manchester physicist has discovered that some games are simply impossible to fully learn, or too complex for the human mind to understand. Dr Tobias Galla from The University of Manchester and Professor Doyne Farmer from Oxford University and the Santa Fe Institute, ran thousands of simulations of two-player games to see how human behavior affects their decision-making. From the article: 'In simple games with a small number of moves, such as Noughts and Crosses the optimal strategy is easy to guess, and the game quickly becomes uninteresting. However, when games became more complex and when there are a lot of moves, such as in chess, the board game Go or complex card games, the academics argue that players' actions become less rational and that it is hard to find optimal strategies.'"

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The debate about whether games are a legitimate art form is a never-ending back-and-forth that's actually getting a bit tiresome at this point. At the very least, though, outside bodies are beginning to recognize that games at least contain artistic elements that are worthy of consideration in their own right. Thus, we have thatgamecompany's hauntingly beautiful, cello-heavy Journey soundtrack being nominated for a Grammy this year in the Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media category.

The Austin Wintory-composed soundtrack (which you can listen to in its entirety here) will compete directly with works by well-known film composers such as John Williams (The Adventure of Tintin), Howard Shore (Hugo), and Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises). Wintory tweeted his speechless reaction to the nomination announcement and the outpouring of support he received following it. "I don't think I've ever felt genuinely overwhelmed before until last night, reading everyone's messages," he wrote. "You are all SO wonderful."

The soundtrack debuted at No. 8 on Billboard's "Soundtrack" charts (and No. 114 on the overall chart) by selling 4,000 copies in a week, putting it behind Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock as the second-best-selling video game soundtrack ever. The game itself became the fastest-selling downloadable game ever on the PlayStation Network after its release earlier this year.

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