Archive for March, 2006

Into the Blue Review Up at FlickZone

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

FlickZone now has a review of Into the Blue up. This was one of the hotter movies last year and it is now available on DVD and VHS.

Read the review and see if its a movie for you!

Videogames Good For Your Health?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

All right, so maybe I’m on a kick today in promoting videogames in a positive light. Mainly since I’m a big advocate that they’ve been receiving an unjust reputation since, well, since Asteroids. The complaints change every five years or so, but nonetheless, one constant has remained, videogames are bad for us. Or are they?

Through the varies press releases I check over daily, one caught my attention quickly; then again, it was meant to in order for the release’s desired coverage. However, it just raised the question, could videogames be good for you? Here’s the release, and you decide, for yourself, if the study has any merit.

PopCap Games and The Games for Health Project today released their first summary findings of literature review of research and market development activities associated with the possible use of digital games for maintaining healthy minds. The full research findings are being presented today as part of the Serious Games Summit track at the Game Developer’s Conference being held in San Jose, California this week.

“We have reviewed a large base of literature and what we’ve found is that while still in the early stages of scientific understanding, there is growing consensus that defined cognitive exercise can play a critical role in healthy aging. As part of that role, it seems clear that puzzle games, strategy games, and games which aren’t as spatially oriented can play a significant role in that effort,” said Ben Sawyer, co-founder and director of the Games for Health Project.

“However, equally important is that the research we’ve seen while pointing toward this outcome does not yet have a definitive answer regarding how cognitive exercise works physiologically,” Sawyer continued. “Nor have we found absolute consensus on what types of games and mental exercises are best, or minimum thresholds. While there is good basic consensus emerging, we’re probably a decade from the depth of understanding and widespread consensus we have about cardio-vascular exercise, for example. However, as this awareness and understanding becomes more refined and widespread, and as specific strategies are being formed, videogames are playing and will continue to play an increasing role. What is exciting is that we’re really just at the early stage of what clearly can be a vital role played by so-called ‘casual games’ in the area of cognitive exercise and health.”

“While we haven’t previously developed casual games with cognitive health as a goal, we look forward to working closely with the Games For Health team to engage the research community to identify specific puzzle- and other problem-solving activities that could comprise all or part of the game-play in future products that we develop,” said Jason Kapalka, co-founder and chief creative officer at PopCap Games.

With an increasingly aging population in many developed countries the field of cognitive exercise is growing. Advocates of cognitive exercise say it is equally important for people to exercise their minds as well as their bodies. In Japan, a series of popular brain exercise games for Nintendo’s DS platform have been major commercial successes. The first of these games will debut in the U.S. this year and will join several companies offering mental workout products – currently primarily available in the form of workbooks and flashcards.

“The basics of the work presented at the Game Developers Conference today by the Games for Health Team is very promising,” Sawyer said. “What we’re seeing regarding the critical role games will play is that as research draws ever closer to defining exactly what will work best, at a minimum there is an opportunity for game developers to build increasingly better and more accessible means of cognitive exercise in ‘digital entertainment’ forms. Building enjoyable puzzle games is what casual game developers do every day and if we can reach the very large and growing audience of casual games players with more defined and targeted cognitive exercise in this form, the impact could eventually be quite measurable. Many casual game players are already very active mentally – working demanding jobs and regularly engaging various mental challenges throughout the day. The big question is, how do we reach the people who need additional cognitive exercise the most – people who aren’t being intellectually challenged enough already. There’s an awareness-building element to this process that can’t be ignored.”

Summary Research
Since its launch in January the project has cataloged a wealth of research papers and major media stories covering the state of cognitive exercise. The research has shown that studies of people who maintain healthy cognitive loads (e.g. playing chess, doing crosswords) appear to have lower incidence of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other cognitive ailments. Importantly two other risk factors included social activity and traditional physical exercise. “It’s not just about working out your mind” said Darius Kazemi, co-lead researcher at Games For Health on the project, “you need to get up and move, and be social as well.”

Key summary findings to date include:
- There is a growing body of consensus based on research that indicates that the mind and memory can be kept healthier and ’sharper’ by deliberate mental exercise.
-While there is evidence from population studies as to a link between mental activity and lower incidence of dementia/Alzhiemer’s/senility etc., it is not certain what it is about mental activity that wards off the biophysical issues related to these ailments. There are neuro-regenerative properties of mental exercise being found but whether this is allowing the brain to ward off “brain plaque” or to operate better despite its onset is still to be determined.
- It is not clearly understood if people who report lower cognitive, social, and physical activity aren’t already succumbing to issues of aging in some studies. Further isolations are needed and more longitudinal studies to improve understanding. Interestingly, videogame activity of current generations may start manifest in next-generation studies, but to date there is no major study which identifies and quantifies specific benefits from videogame playing.
- Intellectual activities seem particularly “protective”; people who use leisure time for mind-challenging hobbies were about two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s in one study conducted by Chicago’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging. For example, Regular crossword puzzle solving equated to a 47% reduction in the likelihood of developing dementia. Not surprisingly, television watching is not protective and may even be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and writing and taking part in group discussions seemed to offer no protection against memory-robbing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- There is no absolute measurement that exists for cognitive exercise regimens, as not all activities seem to be equally effective in reducing the risk of dementia and other mentally debilitating ailments in all studies. Subjects who often played board games, read, played an instrument or did crossword puzzles were less likely to develop dementia than people who said they engaged in those activities only rarely.
- A five-year pushback of Alzhiemer’s cases across the world would result in a reduction of incidence of the disease in half.
- The market is moving forward just on the research to date despite no widespread consensus. It is likely that brain fitness will be a $100 million market (or larger) in the next decade if the research grows, validates, and develops a consensus regimen.

Next Steps
The Games for Health Project will be moving to further phases of this work over the next two months. This will include interviews with leading researchers, further literature review, and a final assemblage of the knowledgebase. A version of the initial presentation is now available on the Web at www.gamesforhealth.org.

About The Games For Health Project
Games for Health is a project produced by The Serious Games Initiative, a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars effort that applies games and game technologies to a range of public and private policy, leadership, and management issues. The Project is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Initiative founded Games for Health to develop a community and best practices platform for games being built for health care applications. To date the project has brought together researchers, medical professionals, and game developers to share information about the impact games and game technologies can have on health care and policy. This includes an effort to catalog the current use of games in health care. For more information about Games for Health, see www.gamesforhealth.org.

GameRifts Sold?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Here’s what you come up with when you attempt to access GameRifts nowadays:

Returning Soon

A CONDERA PROPERTY

What is this Condera and why has it never been mentioned on GR in the past? Does this mean that GR has been sold?

Inquiring minds want to know…………………

Secret Service Online Fraud Campaign

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

The Secret Service has an extensive websection up for online fraud, especially so-called 4-1-9 schemes. From the website:

4-1-9 Schemes frequently use the following tactics:
An individual or company receives a letter or fax from an alleged “official” representing a foreign government or agency;
An offer is made to transfer millions of dollars in “over invoiced contract” funds into your personal bank account;
You are encouraged to travel overseas to complete the transaction;
You are requested to provide blank company letterhead forms, banking account information, telephone/fax numbers;
You receive numerous documents with official looking stamps, seals and logo testifying to the authenticity of the proposal;
Eventually you must provide up-front or advance fees for various taxes, attorney fees, transaction fees or bribes;
Other forms of 4-1-9 schemes include: c.o.d. of goods or services, real estate ventures, purchases of crude oil at reduced prices, beneficiary of a will, recipient of an award and paper currency conversion.

Games Charity Outlines 2006 Fundraising Planes and Initiatives

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

For anyone that knows those “videogames are the downfall of society” people, here’s some ammunition to fire back at their “doom and gloom” attitude, as well as a chance for those interested in raising awareness of a good charity event.

The Entertainment Software Charity (ESC) has unveiled details of its busy year ahead, including many new initiatives, fundraising activities and a new “Friends of the ESC” industry membership scheme.

Friends of ESC
With an emphasis on incentivising the interactive industry to become proactively involved in the ESC’s work, a new membership initiative launches this week to encourage participation from companies and individuals. The new program, called ‘Friends of ESC’, features two distinctive tiers:

Individual Membership
For a donation of £10 each year, the benefits for individual members include:

- Quarterly Update
- ESC Workshops presented by Mark Strachan
- Opportunity to become an ESC coordinator, organising at least one fundraising activity per year
- Opportunity to be voted in as a Trustee of the ESC

Anyone can join by going to www.justgiving.com/escmembership.

Corporate Membership
For an annual donation of £1,000 the benefits of company membership includes:

- Framed, A4 certificate of membership
- ESC logo for use on company website and letterhead, along with contextual paragraph explaining the work of the charity
- Quarterly ESC Update
- ESC Workshops presented by charity CEO, Mark Strachan
- First in the queue to attend ESC events

Those interested in Corporate Membership should send a cheque for £1000 payable to the ESC to: CLBLF Accountants, 1 Park Place, Canary Wharf, London E14 4HJ. Corporate Members are asked to elect a person from their team to become the in-house ESC Coordinator. This coordinator will be the point of contact for all fundraising activities and represent the company at the quarterly workshops. The role will suit those who would like a closer say in the activities of the charity.

Trustees
In the summer of 2006, the ESC will conduct an election of three new Trustees from the enlarged membership to sit alongside the existing four Trustees. This role involves telephone and email contact with Mark Strachan and four meetings a year. From 2007 onwards, there will be an annual election of the Trustees for the following year. The Trustees are responsible for deciding which of the numerous charities and appeals should be allocated funds.

Paddington Academy
Construction on the Paddington Academy is progressing rapidly and the ESC would like to invite visitors to the next on-site open day – 22nd March at 3pm – to see the development for themselves. There will be a tour and short presentation from Barbi Goulding, the charismatic Head, then Mark Strachan will detail what the ESC has achieved, both in the UK and abroad, and future plans. The site on Marylands Road W9 is best reached by tube to Warwick Avenue or Notting Hill. www.paddington-academy.org.uk

ESC Golf Day
Following the success of last year’s event, the ESC has a new Golf Day planned for 7th June. This year’s day of putting and partying will be held at The London Club, which has a magnificent course that was designed by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus. Please contact Tony Adams at tony@taabizdev.com for more information.

Formula One Grand Prix Ball
The ESC has been chosen as one of two charities to benefit from the Charity Auction at this year’s British Grand Prix Ball and has several tables available for companies wishing to soak up the glamour in spectacular setting next door to Silverstone. Partygoers will get to mingle with celebrities and F1 drivers, whilst enjoying the gourmet fare and spectacular entertainment. There will be some fantastic prizes up for grabs including a guitar donated by Jimmy Page and goodies from Sony Computer Entertainment, amongst numerous others.
Please contact mark@strachans.org for more information.

Kilimanjaro
This year’s Kilimanjaro climb now has a satisfying number of brave participants who are busily preparing themselves for the mammoth hike in October.

The full list of brave ascenders is:
Adrian Hall – DfES
Alex Cook – Codemasters
Andy Payne – The Mastertronic Group
Charis Poynton – Focus Multimedia
Charles Lockhart – Octavia Estates
Craig Johnson – Focus Multimedia
Dave Noble – Red Octane
Dominic Briggs – MMetrics
John Hemingway – Sheffield Hallam University
Kirsty Payne – Rocket Media
Lee Kirton – Atari
Lou Fawcett – Climax Group
Mark Strachan – ESC
Mike Goldsmith – Future
Rob McGrath – Frontier Management
Scott Longstaff – Future
Sebastien Vidal – NCsoft

Sold Out’s Head Honcho, Garry Williams, has promised to join this year’s climb if £50,000 is pledged to send him up there. To add a donation and help ESC show Garry the climb isn’t – as he puts it – “a walk in the park” click on this link: www.justgiving.com/wodgeupamountain

Retail Packs
Following on from the success of previous PlayStation and Xbox retail packs, the ESC is finalising plans with publishers in the UK whereby net revenue from single titles will go directly to the ESC’s funds.

“With all these events and new initiatives we have planned, this will be an extremely busy year for the ESC,” said Mark Strachan, CEO of the Entertainment Software Charity. “It’s gratifying to see there’s also lots of activity being created by individuals from the games industry. I have always felt it important that the whole industry is involved in our work and hope the Friends of the ESC initiative will further encourage this type of involvement from companies and individuals.”

For more details on any of these initiatives and events, please contact Mark Strachan on 07802 408133 or at mark@strachans.org

Red Planet Orbiter

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

The new NASA probe Mars Orbiter has just reached its destination safely for a 2 year mission to expand our knowledge of the Red Planet.

From CNN:

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, on a two-year mission to study the Martian atmosphere and surface, and search for water, pulled off a dangerous and tricky maneuver known as “orbit insertion” and began circling the red planet Friday.

More From the Smoking Gun

Friday, March 10th, 2006

A tipsy trespasser. A defenseless little lamb. And a
guy named Mr. Goats. That sure sounds like the
makings of a really bizarre story to us:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/0307062sheep1.html

So Yanni, New Age music king, is facing charges
that he roughed up his girlfriend (and called her
some terrible names) during a dispute in his Florida
mansion. What’s next? Enya getting popped for
armed robbery? Details at:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/0307061yanni1.html

Nothing but the best for Mary J. Blige’s posterior. The
R&B queen, fittingly, demands a new throne at every
concert venue. And she uses the alias “Mrs. Jefferson”
when checking into hotel presidential suites nationwide.
Story at:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/0306062mjb1.html

While we personally would have opted for a citation
from “Happy Gilmore,” a federal judge actually included
a passage from Adam Sandler’s film “Billy Madison” in
a blistering court order he just issued. While some
might view this as gimmicky and beneath the federal
bench, we’re just glad the jurist didn’t instead dip into
the Chevy Chase canon:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/0306061billy1.html

You’ve allowed yourself to be videotaped in compromising
positions with a rock star in the back of his tour bus.
Possibly embarrassing? Perhaps. Potentially lucrative?
Definitely:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/0303061stapp1.html

To get ready for the new “Sopranos” season, we’re
reviewing our cache of organized crime stories, to which
we’ve just added the heartwarming tale of John Gotti’s
love child, a story that has dominated New York’s tabloids
for the last two weeks. Take a refresher course:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/wiseguys/index.html

Amazing

Friday, March 10th, 2006

Here is an email that I got recently that was probably intended as spam, but which seems to be just a mess.

Anyone have an idea as to just which this was about?

Apologize i’ve been away but I just got ur email. I’m not sure how to say
this but since ur not happy with your livelyhood and ur activity in the home
then visit. It’s sad but true, I had to use them
too.

Teenagers want to experience and experiment with , and even if they choose
to not have until marriage, . ran out thinking that Mr. Antolini was a
pervert as well. This is the only time during the novel where Ho.

they will fantasize about it. This is yet another example of the
similarities in which Holden and the .

Thank you
curren

Garry Meier Expelled From Chicago Radio

Friday, March 10th, 2006

Garry Meier, a longtime radio show host in Chicago, has been for all practical purposes exiled from Chicago to Los Angeles and other points. Meier’s shows were always popular regardless if they were on FM stations or on the 50k watt WLS 890 AM. However, with the pressure to cut costs so as to maintain already bloated profit margins, even the most popular radio show hosts are suceptible to the axe.

And so one of the few remaining radio giants in Chicago has been forced out of the Windy City. What a shame.

New Family Guy MMORPG?

Monday, March 6th, 2006

Well, there is a Family Guy game coming out, but not a MMORPG. Just thought this would be something you guys would find interesting. No promises it’ll be a great game, but something that may be fun to track, and eventually play, for all you Family Guy fans, myself included. The following is a press release from Take-Two Interactive Europe (since it’s not an online multiplayer game, this is won’t be showing on the regular press release section of OMGN).

2K Games And Twentieth Century Fox Announce Exclusive Licensing Agreement To Create Video Games Based On The Emmy-Award Winning TV Series Family Guy

Baby Stewie Gets One Step Closer to World Domination as 2K Games Brings Hit TV Series Family Guy to Video Game Consoles

Windsor, England – March 6th, 2006 – 2K Games, a publishing label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO), and Twentieth Century Fox announced today an exclusive agreement to develop and publish “some freakin’ sweet” video games based on the hit television series Family Guy. Working closely with Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, 2K Games will bring the hilarious world of Peter, Brian, the tyrannical tyke Stewie and all of Quahog, Rhode Island to current generation consoles this autumn.

Developed by High Voltage Software, Family Guy will feature the offbeat humour of the show’s writers in an action/adventure game focusing on the lovable oaf Peter Griffin, his world domination-obsessed son Stewie and their talking, martini-drinking dog, Brian. Throughout the game, these popular characters wreak havoc in many of the same locations depicted in the animated series.

“The irreverent and satirical Family Guy humour that has made the show a smash hit opens up exciting and untapped possibilities in game development,” said Christoph Hartmann, Managing Director of 2K Games. “We are looking forward to bringing the colourful Family Guy characters to life in a one-of-a-kind action/adventure style game.”

Elie Dekel, Executive Vice President, Fox Licensing and Merchandising added, “2K Games really understands the distinct humour and unique voice of Family Guy. We’re confident that they will develop a hilarious and entertaining game for fans of the show as well as for gamers.”

Family Guy performs solidly in all key demographics and regularly attracts almost nine million viewers each week. Family Guy is the only television show in history to be resurrected from cancellation based on blockbuster DVD sales and the strength of its ratings in repeat cable broadcasts.

About Family Guy
Heading up the eclectic Family Guy household is Peter Griffin, a big, boisterous, lovable oaf who isn’t afraid to say what’s on his freakin’ mind – usually the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. He lives in Quahog, Rhode Island with his wife, Lois, and their three children – Chris, Meg and Stewie, a brilliant, sadistic baby bent on destroying the world. And, don’t forget Peter’s well-spoken, cynical best friend, Brian, the family dog. Executive producer/creator Seth MacFarlane has the distinction of being the youngest person to be an executive producer. Family Guy debuted after the Super Bowl in 1999, and in 2004, Family Guy made television history when Fox ordered the previously canceled show back into production due to its extraordinary fan support in both DVD sales and repeat broadcasts on Cartoon Network’s ‘Adult Swim’.