Monday, December 31, 2007

Child's Play Charity raises over $1M for children's hospitals across the world

Child's Play Charity raised over a $1M USD for children's hospitals across the world this year.

The charity started by gamers and taking in cash and goods donations overwhelmingly from gamers has been a phenomenal success. This year more so than ever before.

Well done gamers everywhere!

Monday, December 24, 2007

US Marine rehabilitating from Iraq war wounds with an XBox 360

Lance Cpl. John McClellan was shot by a sniper in Haditha, Iraq. The bullet damaged the part of his brain that controls movement in his left hand and leg.

John used to play a lot of video games before and during his tour of duty in Iraq and he figured he could use video games to get movement back in his hand better than by following the Veteran's Hospital doctors' advice. So he bought an XBox 360 and got some games for it.

John says his hand is now much better thanks to the video games.

The town of Guelph, ON, Canada uses GuelphQuest Online to educate residents about city planning

The town of Guelph, ON, Canada is growing fast and is facing some city planning challenges in the future in dealing with the population growth.

The town has turned towards games to educate its residents of policy choices dealing with city planning and the consequences of those choices. They've commissioned a Flash-based game called GuelphQuest Online.

The game asks players to plan the next 35 years of the town's growth. The game asks the players to prioritize the choices the town has to grow with a series of questions and then presents the player with how the future would turn out given their choices in a time-lapse animation of the city map as well as how things like commute time and air quality would be effected.

In my practise game I managed to reduce the eco-footprint of the city by 30%, but also increased commute time by 20%.

Earthquake in Zipland helps children deal with divorce

Zipland Interactive has produced a game called Earthquake in Zipland to help children deal with divorce or separation of their parents.

The game has been produced with the help of a professional family therapist Chaya Harash (M.S.W.) and is aimed at kids between the age of 9 and 12.

The game is designed to help children deal with issues like guilt about the divorce, blame and responsibility for the loss of the old family structure, being torn between two households, exploring the fantasy of bringing the parents back together again among other psyhological effects of divorce of children.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A study claims ESRB ratings system better than most

Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government, has released a study on entertainment ratings systems in the United States.

CEI being a pro free markets and against big government type of an organization obviously has an agenda to promote market driven approaches against those provided by the Government, but the study is still an interesting look into the ratings systems used to rate entertainment products in the United States. Of particular interest to The Pixelantes is the study's conclusions about the effectiveness of ESRB, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which rates video games.

The study documents the evolution of the ratings systems for movies, comic books, music, television, radio and video games. It studies their effectiveness and usefullness and finally tries to draw conclusions on how a good ratings system should operate.

The study's conclusion is that the ESRB system works better than others. The study states:

The ESRB system is by far the most descriptive and comprehensive ratings system for any medium today. Indeed, it is one of the few that contains all relevant information on the products themselves.

The study also lists what they think are best practises for ratings systems:

...the best rating systems have three attributes: They attempt to describe, rather than prescribe, what entertainment media should contain; they are particularly suited to their particular media forms; and they were created with little or no direct input from government.

The study finishes by underlying that ratings systems are mere tools and should never replace good parenting:

Well thought-out ratings systems, particularly those shaped through market forces rather than government mandates, can prove a valuable tool for parents, but they are just that—tools. No ratings system can replace good parenting.

We couldn't agree more.

The study is available as an PDF download.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Video game industry growing faster than the overall US economy

A new study by The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) found out that the video game industry growth far exceeds the average growth of the US economy. The video game industry growth grew more than 17% from 2003 to 2006 while the overall economy grew only 4%.

It seems as if the video game industry is thriving even during generally tough economic environment. Maybe it'd be time for our legislators treat the industry with some amount of respect.

Monday, November 19, 2007

No research to show causation between playing violent video games and violent behavior

A Texas A&M Professor Christopher Ferguson has conducted a study of all existing research on the affects of playing violent video games.

His study concludes there is no evidence whatsoever to support the video game critics' assertion that playing violent video games causes young children to become more violent. The Professor says publication bias has a lot to do with the public perception of video games causing violent behavior.

He also opines that it would be nearly impossible to prove one way or another whether violent video games cause violent behavior due to the fact that nearly every child in the country plays them:

Put another way, can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Iraq war veteran shoots down gaming stereotypes

Jeffrey D. Barnett, an officer in the US Marine Corps, has written a most excellent article about video games on a blog called Home Fires hosted by the New York Times.

It turns out this Iraq war veteran is a long time gamer. He started playing video games in the early 80s with his dad on the Atari 2600.

His article talks about social gaming, gaming by adults and how the stereotypes of gamers are just flat out wrong.

The killer quote from the article is:

I think steak knives and swimming pools pose a greater threat to children [than video games], but nobody is trying to restrict adult access to those tools…

Well said, sir!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

2006 Gamer Demographics

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has again published their annual Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry paper.

The basic demographic numbers are pretty much unchanged from the 2005 numbers. The average age of a gamer is still 33, according to ESA.

Video games aren't just for kids, folks

Newsweek's N'Gai Croal says:

"The assumption that all videogames are toys for children rather than entertainment for a variety of different audiences is one of our pet peeves."

You and me, you and me.

Mr. Croal was recently invited to talk about Manhunt 2 with CNN's American Morning. It appears that the reporter doing the interview had the typical, but mistaken, idea that all video games, including Manhunt 2, are for kids. Mr. Croal did his best to correct the stereotype, as he writes in his blog post about "Infantilization of Videogames", as he puts it. I have my doubts as to how successful he ended up being.

I do wonder what will it take for people to understand some video games are designed for adults and how long will it take for video games to be treated the same way as movies in this regard. The latest available gamer demographics information says the average age of a gamer in the United States is 33, after all.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Halo 3 is the biggest entertainment product launch in history

Halo 3, the latest installment of one of the most popular video game franchises of all times, is launching today at midnight.

It is expected to bring Microsoft $150M in revenue on its first day. That will put it up there with the biggest opening weekend ticket sales for a movie (Spiderman 3: $151M).

Overall revenue over the lifetime of the video game is expected to hit $600M or more. Spiderman 3's total revenue (merchandising, DVD sales, ticket sales) is expected to hit $1.3B.

Where Halo 3 reigns supreme over Spiderman 3, however, is profit margin. Business analysts are expecting Halo 3 to have profit margins close to 90%, while Spiderman 3 will "only" have a 46% profit margin due to much higher production costs. The overall profit in dollars is about even between the two blockbuster products.

Update: Microsoft has now counted their money from Halo 3 launch day. The results come in as an impressive $170M as first day sales.

Monday, September 17, 2007 celebrates Constitution Day

Apparently September 17th is Constitution Day in the United States. is celebrating the day by publishing a series of articles about the constitutional issues regarding video games. The articles would be a great read for our elected officials who seem hellbent on wasting our money on pointless, and unconstitutional, laws regulating video games.

The first article is about an article by Julie Hilden, a First Amendment expert. It's a primer on why laws regulating violence in video games have all failed. She makes a great argument about the difference of perpetrating violence and depicting violence.

The second article is regarding a speech by Professor Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard University Law School. He recently gave a speech at Progress and Freedom Foundation's 13th annual Aspen Summit about First Amendment issues relating to technology. His speech goes into considerable detail to explain why video games enjoy First Amendment protection in the first place.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Video games not involved in the Virginia Tech shooting reports the final report of Virginia State Governor Tim Kaine's Virginia Tech Review Panel has been released to the public today.

The report states in no uncertain terms that video games were not involved. Not that there really was any doubt about it in the first place.

The report's findings should, once and for all, now prove that people with self-serving agendas quick to rush to blame video games for the tragedy were completely wrong about it. I don't expect these people to ever admit they were wrong, however. It's just not like them to do so. In fact, I expect most of them to issue statements disputing the findings of the report.

I applaud the efforts of Governor Tim Kaine and his Review Panel. In this day and age, it seems media concentrates their reporting on the most scandalous and controversial topics no matter how inaccurate they might be. The Virginia Tech Review Panel, on the other hand, rigorously studied all aspects of the incident and produced a thorough report on their findings based on the facts they uncovered. I would encourage the critics of video games to do the same.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Constitutional issues with anti-video game laws

The New York Times writes about the Constitutional issues surrounding the anti-video game laws introduced by several US States in recent years.

The article takes a very skeptical view on New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer's anti-video game bill's chances to hold against a Constitutional challenge by the courts.

It also quotes Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Judge Posner ruled on a case to regulate public game arcades in Indianapolis.

In his ruling to block the law in question he said:

“Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it.”

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pro gaming hitting mainstream

CBS is broadcasting the 2007 World Series of Video Games on national network TV on Sunday July 27th at noon EST.

This is the first time a network TV channel is broadcasting a pro video gaming event to the national TV audience. Cable networks have done the same before, but obviously not at this scale.

It'll be interesting to see how the ratings turn out and what the TV coverage will be like.

The broadcast is sure to raise the profile of pro gaming in the national media. Let's see if it has any other positive effects as well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The New York Times on Manhunt 2: less violent than R rated movies

The "controversy" over Rockstar Games' and Take Two Interactive's Manhunt 2, a violent action game, set to be released later this year has gone through the roof in the last week or so.

The British and the Irish banned it outright, and ESRB, the US organization which rates video games, issued it an Adult Only (AO) rating, which effectively kills the game in the United States. The AO rating means Microsoft, Nintendo nor Sony will allow its release on their video game platforms since all of them have licensing agreements with developers that prohibit releasing AO rated games. All major retailers in the United States also do not carry AO rated video games.

The video gaming industry has been silently sitting idle watching the fireworks and trying to remain quiet as if not to attract too much attention afraid of something else "bad" might come out of speaking out.

A New York Times journalist, Seth Schiesel, however did not remain quiet. He has written an article comparing Manhunt 2 to modern horror movies, all of which are rated R, a much less restrictive rating than the AO rating for Manhunt 2.

He found out the R rated horror movies are far more violent than the video game that's currently been labeled as a "murder simulator" and the most violent video game to date. But such is the power of objective research, rather than letting yourself be influenced by alarmists with self-serving agendas and by fear of "not doing something".

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Whyville - making learning science cool with games

The Escapist Magazine has an interesting article about Whyville, a sort of virtual world for young kids to learn about science through playing mini-games and communicating with other kids of their age.

Whyville is a web based virtual community launched in 1998. It's being sponsored by organizations such as NASA.

Positive news from West Virginia's Dance Dance Revolution expirement continue to pile up

The Escapist Magazine writes about West Virginia's expirement to provide all public schools in the state with Dance Dance Revolution games to combat childhood obesity.

The article describes the positive results as experienced by Ryan Walker, a sixth grade student from Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Vicarious Visions - a video game developer based in Albany, NY speaks out against the New York State anti-video game bills

Karthik Bala, the CEO of Vicarious Visions, a video game developer based in Albany, NY, has written an editorial in Times Union, a newspaper serving the New York State's capital region.

He's speaking out against the two different anti-video game bills recently introduced in New York State Senate and Assembly. He's pointing out how similar bills in other states have been struck down on constitutional grounds, and warns the legislators not to go down the same route wasting tax payers' money.

He rather recommends politicians spend our money on educating parents about the video game rating system already in use and about parental controls available in every video game console platform currently on the market.

I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Video Games Turn 40

It's been 40 years this month since Ralph Baer invented Pong.

Within those 40 years the video game industry has surpassed both the music and film industry in terms of annual revenue generated. No small feat for "kids stuff".

The article recaps the history of inventing Pong.

Mr. Baer, thank you for all the wonderful gaming moments.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wisconsin gamers raise $14K to help their fellow schoolmate

For the second time this year Kaukauna High School students stepped up to raise money for a schoolmate in trouble. In March they raised $13K for Michael Ederer, who was diagnosed with cancer, and this Monday they raised $14K to help Tiffany Pohl, who was seriously injured in a car crash.

The students were selling raffle tickets to win a Nintendo Wii, and tickets to play video games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution.

Nicely done!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Games are Good for You

Ben Silverman's article on Yahoo! Games discusses five different positive aspects of video games.

They are:
  1. They can improve your eyesight.
  2. They can help you focus.
  3. They can help you lose weight.
  4. They can help you understand classic literature.
  5. They can literally save your life.

Ben is a kindred spirit.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Progress report on West Virginia and Dance Dance Revolution

About a year ago the State of West Virginia decided it's going to add Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) into the physical education curriculum on all of its 765 public schools.

They've since added DDR on all 185 of their middle schools. The New York Times is writing about the results of the expirement.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech and video games

MSNBC has published an excellent article about how video games get blamed for every violent act by a young male in the US. It goes on to discuss how certain people went on to blame video games for the Virginia Tech tragedy even before anyone knew anything about the shooter.

It quotes Dr. Karen Sternheimer, a sociologist at USC, who says it's disingenuous to blame video games, because pretty much all young males have, at some point in their lives played video games and despite every young adult male being a gamer youth violence rates are at an all time low.

It's a good read to get past the blame game.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My anti violence declaration

Gaming blog has written a declaration about violence in video games from the gamers' perspective.

It lists a few statements that should be obvious to anyone with common sense. It's too bad most people these days do not have common sense, so people have to spell these things out.

The list includes, among others:

  • I know the difference between right and wrong.
  • I know that people have played Cops and Robbers for generations without becoming real robbers.
  • I know that video games are a safe way to let out my aggression without hurting anyone.
  • I know, in the end, that these are only games.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

British Board of Film Classification studies video gaming

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), an independent organization that rates film and video releases in the United Kingdom, has published their research on playing video games.

The BBFC prefaces the press release about the research with the following.

Video games tend to polarise opinions in a way that other entertainment media do not. People who do not play them cannot understand their attraction and that lack of understanding can lead to some games being demonised.

Well said.

The research is one of the first research on why people play video games and what do the gamers think of their gaming habits. The research included gamers from 7 to 40 years old, parents of young gamers, gaming industry representatives and games reviewers.

One of the most poignant, especially during this time when the witch hunt against video games has been fueled again by the tragic events at Virginia Tech University, findings of the research state:

gamers are virtually unanimous in rejecting the suggestion that video games encourage people to be violent in real life or that they have become desensitised. They see no evidence in themselves or their friends who play games that they have become more violent in real life. As one participant said: "I no more feel that I have actually scored a goal than I do that I have actually killed someone. I know it’s not real. The emphasis is on achievement."

The research also found out that most gamers find violence on television and in films more upsetting and more real than violence in video games.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Video games used in Physical Ed classes to keep kids in shape

Monroeton Elementary school in North Carolina is using Dance, Dance Revolution video game to keep their kids in shape during PE classes.

According to the news article the kids are much more enthusiastic about exercising using the video game than they would otherwise be. A lot of them are playing the game at home, too, so that they'd get better when competing against their classmates at school. The end result is more exercising.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Nintendo Wii keeping the elderly active

A retirement community in Lincolnshire, IL got a Nintendo Wii as a Christmas present and the residents haven't looked back since. The retirees living in the community have taken video gaming to heart and are having 20 person Wii Sports Bowling tournaments Sunday afternoons.

Looks like video game addiction is not just for the young.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Anshe Chung becomes the first virtual millionaire

A Second Life resident, Anshe Chung, is the first virtual millionaire, according to a press release she's put out.

Anshe is a virtual real estate tycoon in Second Life, a virtual world game, where she buys, develops and sells virtual real estate.

Second Life currency can be exchanged freely to real currency. According to the current exchange rates her in-game assets are now valued in more than $1M USD in real US currency.

Her press release states she's made her million entirely within the virtual world in two and a half years starting with a mere $9.95 investment in a paid Second Life account.

Burger King scores big with video game tie-in

Burger King Holdings reports its quarterly earnings ending at 12/31/2006 were better than expected. Net income increased from $27M to $38M over the same period last year. Quarterly revenues were up 9%.

Burger King is stating one of the reasons for the better than expected results is the cross marketing campaign with Microsoft. Burger King and Microsoft created Burger King branded video games for the XBox 360 video game platform and sold the games at Burger King locations for $3.99 each.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Michigan State University developing a MMO game to teach Chinese online

Michigan State University's Confucius Institute is developing a Massively Multiplayer Online game to teach Chinese to US high school students. The effort is sponsored by the Chinese Government.

The goal of the program is to make learning Chinese more interesting to US teenagers by taking advantage of the interactive elements of Massively Multiplayer Online games.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Child's Play Charity breaks the one million USD mark

Charitable donations for the Child's Play Charity have crossed the one million USD mark for the first time ever.

That's over $400K more than last year.

Well done gamers!