Get your game on at K-Days with locally developed video games

Posted on July 26, 2017  in Video Games

Game developer Mike Mattai plays his game Voxeltron 1982 at the GDX Game Discovery Exhibition inside the TechLife hall at K-Days at Northlands in Edmonton on Tuesday, July 25, 2017.
Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

Locally designed video games are being showcased at K-Days this week, giving attendees the chance to experience new worlds created by Edmonton developers.

One of the 20 rotating titles at the TechLife pavilion’s GDX Edmonton booth is Voxeltron 1982. You emerge from one of the edges of your screen with the aim of shooting little green men to gain points. For each one you shoot, however, more come back in its place. Eventually, the screen fills with them and with no way out, it’s game over.

Mike Mattai, a recent NAIT graduate who studied game development, developed Voxeltron 1982 as a class project. His challenge was to upgrade an older video game. He chose a single-player game called Robotron 2020, but Mattai’s version allows up to four people to play. 

He said feedback from K-Days attendees has been positive.

“I’ve had the best response from three or four people playing it,” he said, adding players can get quite animated.

Marc Leveille and his daughters Khym (left), 9, and Mhalia, 6, play developer Mike Mattai’s game Voxeltron 1982 at the GDX Game Discovery Exhibition inside the TechLife hall at K-Days at Northlands in Edmonton on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. 

Ian Kucerak Ian Kucerak /


Logan Foster, who oversees the booth, said feedback is really valuable for developers. His own creations appeared this year and last.

“When we were crafting the game last year, we had some internal debates whether or not certain mechanics were fun or people were receptive to them or not,” he said.

He kept a tablet with him and recorded feedback that made the product “bigger and better.”

Foster said the booth is drawing a range of age groups. He estimated about 300 to 400 people have tested out the games.

“Some people are just stopping by and dabbling a little bit. Others are spending hours here.”

Kody Haule was among a group of four friends Tuesday playing Voxeltron 1982. He said it was a lot of fun, but admits the group wasn’t too successful.

“We got really wrecked by that one dude in the middle who one-shots everything,” he said.

Paige Whyte was testing out another game while her family watched.

“It’s pretty cool, I think,” she said. “It’s good that people can take their creativity and make it into games.”

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Games Inbox: Will Ready Player One be the ultimate video game movie?

Posted on July 26, 2017  in Video Games

Games Inbox: Will Ready Player One be the ultimate video game movie?
Ready Player One – could it break the video game movie curse?

The morning Inbox wonders if Destiny 2 is too big to fail, as one reader asks whatever happened to the Shenmue I and II remasters.

To join in with the discussions yourself email

Get Ready

I too watched all the Comic-Con trailers with great interest and there was actually quite a bit of relevance to games. The ‘80s nostalgia of Stranger Things was off the scale and much of it centred around arcade games (pity they had to focus on non-game Dragon’s Lair but I guess the graphics on the others wouldn’t have made the point as well).

But what was really an eye-opener was the adaptation of Ready Player One. I actually think the book is pretty terrible, and I’m not sure the film will be any better, but it gets across the idea of playing a video game much better than just about any movie I’ve ever seen. The craziness of the car race, with the wrecking balls coming out of nowhere and everything happening just because it’s cool, and not through any kind of logic, is 100% video games.

I think this is why actual video game adaptations fail. It’s impossible to get the action and intensity of a game across in a movie without it seeming ridiculous and its only things like Ready Player One, which aren’t a direct adaptation of anything in particular, that actually ‘feel’ like a game. Of course it helps that Steven Spielberg is directing too.

Too big to fail

I like to think I’m a reasonably impartial voice here, since I quite liked the original but never got addicted, but does anyone think it’s possible for Destiny 2 to fail? The reaction to the reveal and beta seems relatively lukewarm so far and I certainly haven’t been excited by anything I’ve seen or read.

They obviously took a gamble but not really changing anything but what if they decide that gamble hasn’t paid off? Not in the sense that they can suddenly change the game design, but what would they do? Fast track an expansion to add more stuff in? Reduce the price? Make it even free-to-play (surprised this hasn’t come up as an option more often, actually)?

Is there any sense that the game hasn’t been attracting pre-orders like you’d expect? I’m not hoping it’ll fail or anything like that, but just curious if some sequels are just too big to fail and it’d actually take a couple of unsuccessful ones in a row to sink a franchise like this?

GC: If pre-orders were bad you would’ve seen some sign of panic from Activision by now. It’s very easy to tell when a publisher is worried about their game.

N64 All-Stars

I would love to see Nintendo create some big budget remakes of their most famous N64 games, although I’m not sure how likely it is to happen. It would be a lot of work, not just on replacing the graphics but I assume in Super Mario 64 they’d have to change the camera as well. Which I’m sure will have a lot of knock-on effects elsewhere in the game that will have to be addressed.

It seems like a lot of effort, of the sort that Nintendo don’t usually go in for, and yet the game that keeps coming to mind is Super Mario All-Stars. Even after all these years this still stands out as a really odd release for Nintendo, and I assume was used as something of schedule filler during a lean time for releases. That could be what the Switch is facing early next year though, so it’s not too hard to imagine the same logic being used.

I’m sure they’d charge full price for the games, but I’m actually okay with that. GC often makes the comparison with buying a remastered movie classic for full price (usually more) on Blu-ray and for games you don’t get anything more classic than Super Mario 64 and Ocarina Of Time.

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Trial grounds

I am looking forward to Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds coming out on the Xbox. When it first came out I didn’t take much notice, because massive multiplayer games usually aren’t my thing, but seeing its rise in popularity piqued my interest. I have since watched a few YouTube videos of people playing it and it looks very interesting to me.

I like the idea of running around an open world, starting with nothing and having to find weapons and protective clothing – constantly on edge that you’ll bump into other players. It sounds a lot of fun when playing with a few friends going in there, and exploring the world and fighting other players. I’d have to try it first, before I would consider buying it, so hopefully it will have a free trial on the Xbox Game Preview
Big Angry Dad82 (gamertag)

Returning Force

Since Microsoft’s first party line-up, or lack of it, has been such a topic of discussion lately I wonder if anyone would welcome a return for Brute Force. Heck, I wonder whether anyone actually remembers Brute Force?

At the time of the original Xbox it was hyped as a Halo killer, but it was rubbish and almost instantly forgotten. It also bore almost no relationship to the four-player co-op tactical shooter that Microsoft pretended it was before release. I wonder whether a reboot that was actually like the game that was promised would do better nowadays? Does GC know who owns the rights?

GC: It was originally published by Microsoft, so we imagine they still do. Especially as the original developer is no more.

Zero points

I am loving Splatoon 2 at the moment, and so far the online seems to be holding up pretty well. I hardly ever get connection problems and the game seems to play nice and smooth once it starts. What I do have a problem with though is people that seem to start a game but wander off before it starts.

You’ll often finish a game and find that one player has a 0 score and have basically ruined your team’s chances of winning. Even more so in Salmon Run, which I assume is the main reason that mode is only three rounds long. Is there not someway Nintendo can boot someone that doesn’t do anything and replacing them with a proper player?

Although I guess that means I have a better chance of not coming last…

Ask a sailor

This is kind of a rhetorical question but what happened to all those rumours of a Shenmue I and II remaster? Has it gone the same way as the Shenmue III release date?

I have a very bad feeling about everything connected with Shenmue, and I’m not going to believe any of these games actually exist unless I see them in my hand (or download queue as I suppose it is nowadays). I mean, I guess the remasters aren’t happening this year or they’d have mentioned them, but what are they waiting for exactly?

These aren’t short games, it’d be nice if Sega could actually remind people why they’re supposed to be excited for the new one.

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Summer blast

Greetings my fellowship of gamers, I am having such a blast with gaming right now. Dariusburst Chronicles Saviours continues to enthral me with its gloriously manic old school shooter vibes, and exquisite music, and pelagic enemy and boss designs.

Ratchet & Clank is an excellently crafted action platformer with some great variety in its level design, the most imaginative weaponry I’ve seen in a shooter type game since Splatoon. Ultra responsive controls and arguably the most advanced graphics I’ve ever seen in a game to date.

The number of times I’ve just suspended all of my activities to gawk at the stupendously detailed, near Pixar-quality visuals is incalculable! I truly marvel at how far the technology powering video games has come since the formative days playing on my Atari 2600 and NES.

In fact, there has been a bit of Ratchet & Clank fever permeating my abode this past fortnight, as I’ve also purchased a copy of the Ratcher & Clank movie for my nephews to enjoy (the film is rather amusing, if unremarkable) alongside the game.

And lastly, I’ve only just started playing it a few days ago, but Inside is already shaping up to be a masterclass in game design. It’s so good that outside of work I’m struggling to leave the house and would rather stay indoors to play Inside. You could say that Inside is currently residing inside my heart. This and Pixar classic Inside Out are probably the best entertainment products with the word inside in them, no doubt

Playdead’s deliciously dark dystopian beauty shines brightly with a stark and striking art direction, superb cinematography, an unremitting stream of novel, mind-expanding ideas, flawless pacing, and incredibly intuitive and elegant design sensibilities.

It’s so easy to for me discern the growth and maturity in developer Playdead’s capabilities since their debut game, Limbo (which was also a certified classic in my eyes). Man I can’t wait to get back to Inside later on tonight, it’s… wait for it… unputdownable (that’s an actual word!) happy gaming folks!
Galvanized Gamer
PS: The music in Dariusburst Chronicles Saviours is truly magnificent!

Inbox also-rans

A big thank you for strongly recommending Cave Story+ GC. I was a bit weary of paying £27 for an indie title but the game is a perfect example of great gameplay beating flashy graphics on any given day. Superb.

GC: We’re glad you liked it.

I’m not sure I really believe PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will come to consoles. Remember when we were also supposed to be getting DayZ? These early access games always seem to evaporate away to nothing after a few months.

This week’s Hot Topic

The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Gannet and asks what’s the most improved sequel you’ve ever played?

With games such as Splatoon 2 and Destiny 2 currently coming under fire for how much they do, or don’t, improve on their predecessors we want to know what you think has been the best sequel ever. Not just in terms of its overall quality, but the new features and improvements that it introduced.

What do you look for in a sequel, and how important is innovation and change compared to refining and improving what already exists? How often do you buy new games in the same series, and are there any you always buy – even if they’re yearly?

E-mail your comments to:

The small print
New Inbox updates appear twice daily, every weekday morning and afternoon. Letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word 4Player viewer features at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

If you need quick access to the GameCentral channel page please use:

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Virginia Tech professor teaches kids to make video games, using basic English commands

Posted on July 26, 2017  in Video Games

BLACKSBURG, Va. – A Virginia Tech professor is changing the way coding looks, using video games to teach kids as young as elementary school how to code.

Most school-aged children don’t have the first idea about how to code or write JavaScript, but they are learning how to read and write. That basic English is the knowledge that the Game Changineer program uses.

Michael Hsiao, a professor in electrical and computer engineering, said the idea came to him in 2012. Since then, he’s been taking simple commands and making them a reality.

“Not everybody knows how to program and learning to program typically takes a long time,” Hsiao said. “Nearly everybody knows how to read and write, so I thought it would be very cool to turn English sentences into computer programming.”

Take a dozen or more basic sentences:
There are 10 tigers, 1 elephant and 20 cakes.  
The player controls the elephant.
When the right arrow key is pressed, the elephant moves right.
If a tiger and elephant collide, the elephant blows up.
When an elephant collides with a cake, the cake is eaten.
When all of the cakes are gone, you win.

While those basic commands don’t sound like much, string them all together and a video game is created. If there are spelling or grammar errors in a sentence or it’s not formatted clearly, the students will get an error message. The program will explain what is wrong with the sentence and how to correct it.

Julia Coppinger, taught middle school students how to use Game Changineer at Virginia Tech’s Imagination Camp. She said for many of the children, learning to create a video game through this program quickly became second nature.

“A lot of them are talking about the different types of coding they use at home,” she says.” They’re talking with each other and comparing this to that. They love this game.”

Emily Leighton is a teacher at Critzer Elementary School in Pulaski County. She said with all the lessons this program teaches, from English to science and simple coding, she wants to bring back to her own classroom.

“My fourth graders are always answering, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ with, ‘I want to be a video game programmer.’ And I always thought they needed to have a plan B,” says Leighton. “I like that I can introduce this to my kids and say, ‘This is what programming really looks like.’ Admittedly, this is going to be sentences rather than letters and numbers, but they can get an idea for that through this process.”

Once the games are complete, students can click to another screen to see the hundreds or thousands of complex lines of coding create their games.

The English to coding system is something that Hsiao hopes will eventually have more uses, like controlling a drone. 

Here’s the link to Game Changineer. 

Copyright 2017 by WSLS 10 – All rights reserved.

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Feeling stressed during the workday? Research says playing video games may help

Posted on July 26, 2017  in Video Games

Credit: Cristie Guevara/public domain

More than half of Americans regularly experience cognitive fatigue related to stress, frustration, and anxiety while at work. Those in safety-critical fields, such as air traffic control and health care, are at an even greater risk for cognitive fatigue, which could lead to errors. Given the amount of time that people spend playing games on their smartphones and tablets, a team of human factors/ergonomics researchers decided to evaluate whether casual video game play is an effective way to combat workplace stress during rest breaks.

In their Human Factors article, “Searching for Affective and Cognitive Restoration: Examining the Restorative Effects of Casual Video Game Play,” Michael Rupp and coauthors used a computer-based task to induce cognitive fatigue in 66 participants, who were then given a five-minute rest break. During the break, participants either played a casual called Sushi Cat, participated in a guided relaxation activity, or sat quietly in the testing room without using a phone or computer. At various times throughout the experiment, the researchers measured participants’ affect (e.g., stress level, mood) and .

Those who took a silent rest break reported that they felt less engaged with work and experienced worry as a result, whereas those who participated in the guided relaxation activity saw reductions in negative affect and distress. Only the video game players reported that they felt better after taking the break.

Rupp, a doctoral student in human factors and at the University of Central Florida, notes, “We often try to power through the day to get more work finished, which might not be as effective as taking some time to detach for a few minutes. People should plan short breaks to make time for an engaging and enjoyable activity, such as video games, that can help them recharge.”

Explore further:
Playing to beat the blues: Video games viable treatment for depression

More information:
Michael A. Rupp et al, Searching for Affective and Cognitive Restoration: Examining the Restorative Effects of Casual Video Game Play, Human Factors (2017). DOI: 10.1177/0018720817715360

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How death can breathe life into video games

Posted on July 26, 2017  in Video Games

Death has a unique place in video games. Unlike other art forms where pure creative expression is at the heart of the medium, in video games since the earliest days, the goal has simply been to stay alive. Space Invaders, Pitfall, Pac-Man… all the way up to the plethora of modern first-person shooters the market is saturated with, have one thing in common: keep playing until you “die” or lose all your “lives.” This core mechanic of most games glosses over the very nature of death — it’s a mere frustration, an interruption to your gameplay with little in the way of consequence.

In a film, if a character dies on-screen, that’s the end of that person’s story (unless there are some flashbacks or time travel tricks). In recent years, we’ve thankfully seen a number of developers tackle the subject of death in a way that’s far more fitting for a topic that essentially drives the human condition. Most recently, What Remains of Edith Finch from Giant Sparrow delves into the subject by examining the lives of each member of the Finch family leading up to his or her demise. It’s a brilliant way of approaching death, because our mortality naturally forces us to confront the nature and purpose of our lives. So in essence, a game about death becomes one about life. “It’s about the bizarre experience of being alive at all,” creative director Ian Dallas said in an interview with Motherboard. “Death is just a way for us to highlight how temporary and fragile that is.”

“If you had asked me 15 years ago when I started writing about this amazing industry if I’d one day play a game that dealt with such delicate subject matter in such an exquisite way, I would have laughed you out of the room”

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about death lately. Some of my favorite celebrities have been dying off like flies. My uncle recently passed away, and I lost my father in January. It’s without question the most difficult thing I’ve ever endured, and I don’t think it’s something anyone truly fully recovers from. You just… move on. As a father of twin boys myself, there are so many instances in my interactions that automatically make me think of him, that make me think of the afterlife and my very existence.

Perhaps that’s why Tequila Works’ brilliantly crafted RiME resonated with me so deeply.

[Warning: some spoilers ahead]

At a time when I’m clearly still trying to process my own grief, the Spanish studio gave me an experience that is at its heart a story of a loving relationship between father and son. Aside from the game’s beautiful artwork and music, the fact that the developers managed to weave a narrative without any actual dialogue leaves things a bit open to interpretation. What’s clear is that a young boy gets shipwrecked. What happens after that is deliberately vague; and while it’s not hard to guess that he’s actually dead, the way the story unfolds through flashbacks and cues from the environment and art is so expertly done that it effectively gives you a chance to experience the boy’s emotions as your own.


Tequila Works’ RiME is a beautiful story about love and loss

My interpretation of the events is that he’s in a purgatory-like state, desperately searching for his father, whether that symbolizes his clinging to life as he drowns or if it’s just a metaphor for what his ultimate happiness would be should he gain entrance into heaven. On the other end of the spiritual wormhole, you have the father who continues to mourn the death of his son, looking out onto the ocean and clinging to the remnant of clothing (a ripped red cloth) that he kept after failing to save the boy from going overboard. During the ending, which pulled at my heartstrings unlike any game I’ve played before, the father finally lets go of the red cloth — in a way, accepting the loss and setting both himself and boy’s soul free.

[End of spoilers]

If you had asked me 15 years ago when I started writing about this amazing industry if I’d one day play a game that dealt with such delicate subject matter in such an exquisite way, I would have laughed you out of the room. No, RiME and What Remains of Edith Finch are not everyday examples of video games, and indeed, the average gamer probably hasn’t even heard of them. But as more and more developers push the art form, we’re bound to see video games continue to grow to new heights, tackling not just death, but social injustices, sexuality, ethics and morality, etc.

“The very fact that games like RiME, What Remains of Edith Finch, or That Dragon, Cancer exist and can offer us all commentary on the nature of life and death is a sure sign that the industry actually is maturing”

In Hollywood, for every Transformers there’s something gripping like Moonlight. We’re not quite at that point in the games industry where you have something like RiME for every Call of Duty out there, but tons of progress has been made, and tons more is yet to come. As Phil Harrison rightly pointed out to us, it took film a good 40 years to create some of the basic tenets of how the medium creates rich and meaningful stories. “Are we evolving at the same rate, in terms of our rich storytelling and our rich characters?” he asked. “Those are some of the themes and the questions that I’m interested in exploring as an investor, and that I think the industry should be asking itself.”

Whether or not games are evolving at the same rate is debatable but also somewhat inconsequential. What matters is what happens now and how game developers and the up-and-coming talent in this industry treat the medium moving forward. The very fact that games like RiME, What Remains of Edith Finch, or That Dragon, Cancer exist and can offer us all commentary on the nature of life and death is a sure sign that the industry actually is maturing. And with virtual reality slowly gaining some traction, I fully believe we’ll be experiencing more video games on the human condition in immersive ways that never would have been possible just a few years ago.

In many cultures and religions, death is not the end. Death is a rebirth – it’s the start of your “next life” (with reincarnation quite literally). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Tequila Works chose the color red for the boy’s clothing in RiME. Red often symbolizes spiritual passage – in Christianity the ascension of the Holy Spirit, in Buddhism it’s a color that stems from enlightenment and in Shintoism, the temples’ bridges are often red. The video game industry is on a journey, and death is just the beginning.

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Prescription video games may be the future of medicine

Posted on July 26, 2017  in Video Games

“Brain-training” games have been a controversial topic in recent years, especially after a group of scientists and researchers published an open letter in 2014 saying there is “very little evidence” that training your brain in one area or on one task offers improvement in other areas of cognitive function. Shortly afterward, another group of scientists wrote a rebuttal to that, claiming that a “substantial and growing body of evidence shows that certain cognitive-training regimens can significantly improve cognitive function, including in ways that generalize to everyday life.”

Which is what makes the efforts of a company called Akili — along with the University of California, San Fransisco’s Neuroscape lab — so interesting. Akili is a Boston-based tech company that has used Neuroscape’s core technology to develop a mobile game called Project: EVO. The goal is make Project: EVO so powerful, that it could potentially help treat children with ADHD — as a prescription-based video game.

In order to validate the game in a way that other brain-training companies haven’t, Akili has to go through all of the trials and processes that are required by the FDA for any kind of drug or medical device. The game is currently in phase III clinical trials, which means this isn’t a done deal yet. But if Akili is successful, it will have created the first prescription-based video game in the US, and in doing so, would essentially create a new category of “digital medicine.”

So for this episode of Next Level, we first went behind the scenes into the Neuroscape lab at UCSF. Lead by neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley (pictured above), the team at Neuroscape has spent the past 12 years incubating and testing video game technology that could be used to support treatment of brain disorders such as ADHD, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. We then visited Akili’s Northern California offices and spoke with co-founder and chief creative officer Matt Omernick, who, prior to Akili, was executive art director at LucasArts. I was curious to find out exactly how Akili plans to turn Project: EVO into a prescription-based game.

And yes, I had the chance to play all of these games, including Akili’s Project: EVO, Neuroscape’s Body Brain Trainer, and a still-in-development game called Labyrinth, which involved an HTC Vive and a Virtuix Omni platform. (I can’t report feeling any smarter afterward; I only used them for brief periods of time.)

Gazzaley, Omernick, and others I spoke to are all very much aware of the controversy surrounding their area of work, but made points to say how their efforts are different. For one, Gazzaley says, Neuroscape tries to “reach beyond gamified exercises and create engaging and immersive video game experiences. We are increasingly integrating both cognitive challenges and physical movement,” he said, which is something I can attest to, because the physically challenging games I played were certainly different than sitting at a computer screen and trying to switch tasks.

“I think it’s just that the evidence hasn’t been clearly shown yet and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Akili’s Omernick said, when I questioned him on the efficacy of brain-training games. “We all believe strongly that it’s very true. It’s just a matter of showing the data.”

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Music, video and games growth doubles in UK – helped by Ed Sheeran

Posted on July 26, 2017  in Video Games

Singer’s Divide album is bestselling entertainment product this year, shifting more than Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Ed Sheeran headlining at Glastonbury festival on 25 June.

Ed Sheeran headlining at Glastonbury festival on 25 June.
Photograph: James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock

Ed Sheeran fever helps drive rise of more than 10% in UK music sales

Singer’s Divide album is bestselling entertainment product this year, shifting more than Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The popularity of Ed Sheeran, elevated by the launch of his latest album, Divide, and his headline Glastonbury spot, helped drive total UK music sales 11.2% higher to £564m in the first half of 2017.

Sheeran continues to divide critical opinion, not least with his recent cameo in hit TV series Game of Thrones, but there is no denying the fillip the Suffolk-raised artist has given to the UK music industry, entertainment retailers and services.

Divide is the biggest-selling entertainment product in the UK in the year to date, selling more than 2m units, ahead of film release Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with 1.18m.

Top 20 Uk entertainment products

The success of Sheeran’s album – which at one point overwhelmed the official charts with all 16 songs making the Top 20 singles list – helped push music streaming and downloads on services such as Spotify and Apple Music up by 16.6% year on year to £366.6m. For comparison purposes the industry uses a measure of 1,000 music streams or 10 singles as the equivalent to the cost of one album sold.

The value of physical music sales climbed 2.5% to £198m overall – the first rise in a decade – as the ongoing revival in vinyl more than made up for the inexorable decline in the popularity of the CD.

The value of vinyl sales grew by 37.6% to £37.3m in the first six months, led by Divide with the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack and the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band also making the top five sellers.

Sales of CDs have been in decline since 2007, when the once mighty market was worth £1.12bn. It is now worth less than 18% of that, £198m.

While the number of vinyl records sold increased by 35.7% to 1.9m year on year in the first half of 2017, the overall volume of sales of physical music continues to decline.

Adding the buoyant vinyl sales to those of CDs of albums and singles there was still an overall decline of 4% from 22.7m to 21.8m copies.

Revenue from streaming and downloads of films, TV and music, and sales of CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, video games and vinyl records surged 6.4% in the first half to £2.98bn, up £180m and double the 3% growth rate in the same period last year.

The video sector, which includes sales of DVDs as well as paid-for film and TV downloads and streams from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and Sky Store, increased by 1.2% year on year to £978m.

However, paid-for digital content and services rose 15% to £669m year on year. Physical sales of DVDs and Blu-rays fell by almost 20%, or some £78m, to £321m.

“Entertainment has now seen over four years of continuous growth thanks to a combination of digital services pioneering new ways of consuming music, video and games,” said Kim Bayley, the chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association, which published the market report. “To now deliver another £180m worth of sales in the first half of 2017 is really extraordinary.”

Sales formats

Video games, the largest sector of the entertainment market as categorised by the ERA, grew by 8.4% to £1.44bn. Within this, digital sales of video games and content rose 11.9% to £1.226bn. Physical sales of games fell by 8% to £235.7m.

Overall, three-quarters of the £3bn of entertainment sector revenues are now accounted for by digital services and content.

Last year, Britain’s growing appetite for services such as Netflix and Amazon helped push streaming and downloads of films and TV shows ahead of sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs for the first time.

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North Texas fundraising company offers retro arcade video games

Posted on July 25, 2017  in Video Games

Children taking part in Charity Arcade at Frisco's Nerdvana

Children taking part in Charity Arcade at Frisco’s Nerdvana

GARLAND, TexasJuly 24, 2017PRLog — As the new school year rapidly approaches, so will the efforts to fund various school-related activities. From various sports activities to musical arts, booster clubs and voluneers get to work raising dollars while the student body works at raising grades.

One North Texas organization hopes it can help, and it has brought old friends like Donkey Kong and Dig Dug along to help.

Charity Arcade is a custom made video arcade game cabinet gives fundraising interests the ability to raise money through the drawing power of 1980s video game classics. Users can insert any amount of money they wish into the Charity Arcade machines and choose from dozens of retro arcade titles to play. From Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man to more obscure classics such as Qix and Mr. Do’s Castle, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on the Charity Arcade machines, all while raising money for their school activities.

“People of all ages enjoy these retro game titles, and few can pass up the opportunity to play their favorites,” said Patrick Scott Patterson, Charity Arcade’s Social Media Manager. “If anything, these games have become so timeless now that you are hard pressed to find a person of any age that doesn’t know them. That helps any fundraiser reach their goals.”

Run by Garland, TX mainstay Bubb Fundraising, Charity Arcade launched this past spring and has already appeared in locations across Dallas, Frisco and even Oklahoma City to help raise funds for organizations such as 1Up On Cancer and Hotdogs for the Homeless. Now with the new operation in full swing, the folks behind this alien blasting fundraising idea hope to help schools all across North Texas and beyond.

More on Charity Arcade can be found on their website at

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Video games: the family ties that digitally bond?

Posted on July 25, 2017  in Video Games

New research, commissioned by Xbox and conducted by Telsyte, has revealed that “Australian parents are increasingly looking to digital entertainment such as video games or streaming services to build family ties, with 1 in 2 (49%) parents claiming these shared experiences have a positive effect on family bond building”.

You’d be forgiven for thinking WTF, and why don’t the damn kids get off their bloody Xboxes and computers and tablets and phones and just go and kick a ball outside for a while, but… this is the report.

The study, which was a custom one “conducted with Telsyte’s Digital Consumer Study 2017 survey respondents”, suggests that “digital bonding activities such as playing videogames or streaming movies together are growing with 40% of parents claiming that ‘digital bonding’ is an important part of family life”.

It is, of course, a very convenient and helpful finding for a company that sells a box that plays video games, and which has streaming capabilities.

Even better for Microsoft and its Xbox is the finding that “this increases for parents with older children, with 56% of parents with 13- to 15-year-old children and 62% of parents with 16- to 17-year-old children highlighting shared digital bonding experiences are important for the family”.

One wonders whether families that bond with a Playstation get the same benefits and results, or whether an Xbox is an integral part of these findings. Presumably an old-school Nintendo 64 isn’t good enough because, while it certainly plays games, streaming is beyond its technical capabilities.

In any case, my devilishness aside, Telsyte claims that “44% of Australians claim the Internet is the main way they source entertainment content, and parenting is also shifting with this move to a more digital lifestyle”.

Thank goodness for the Internet, eh? And broadband. You couldn’t do much modern gaming or streaming on a 56kbps connection, that’s for sure.

In any case, it appears the families that play together stay together, with “the most popular activities amongst these families include playing video games together (40%), and streaming films or TV (34%)”.

After this comes news that “a shared digital experience in 40% of Australian parental households, playing video games together is one of the fastest growing activities, with around a third (35%) claiming they are doing it more often than the previous year”.

It is also evident that people who play and stream together have difficulty in deciding whether to use the term “per cent” and the “%” symbol, which is used interchangeably in the Xbox and Telsyte media release, but which only ever appears as the word “per cent” in anything I ever write ever in this sentence, and this sentence alone.

It is at this point that Jeremy Hinton, Business Group Lead for Xbox Australia, comes in to save me from making any further inappropriate “break the fourth wall” type comments with an actual comment that states: “It’s clear that families around Australia are turning to technology to help facilitate quality time together. Whether it’s streaming their favourite TV show, or bonding through a shared experience in a videogame, digital entertainment has the power to create long-lasting memories and bring generations together.”

Again, one wonders whether perhaps a Mac, or an Apple TV, might deliver the same benefits, or whether it is an Xbox only experience. If I had a young family with which to test this hypothesis out on and with, I’d do it, but until myself and a good woman meet, and bond over, well, who knows, perhaps some gaming and some streaming, this will have to remain theoretical in my own personal experiences.

Back in the real world, we peer back into the matrix to discover that “half of all parents surveyed (48%) claimed that taking part in a shared digital experience had a positive impact on their relationship with their children, which increases to 62% for families that own an Xbox One”.

Ah! So it appears that an Xbox is handily an actual way to have a positive impact with your kids! Who would have imagined it! I must create some children very quickly and get me down to JB or EB or HN or eBay and get an Xbox One pronto so that my kids can one day have a more positive experience with me. And their imaginary mother.

Meanwhile, 45% of respondents who play video games, and the 24% who play mobile games/apps together, say that “digital activities have created more conversation amongst the family. In addition, nearly a third of parents (31%) say they would either start playing or play games more often with their children, to further encourage family bonding.”

I wonder if Ian Fleming ever played any video games in his life. I suspect not.

In any case, Hinton once again arrives to take my mind off martinis shaken and not stirred, and notes that: “As children continue to grow up with technology at their fingertips and families increasingly turn to digital experiences, it’s important for Xbox to support this trend in shared experiences and help bring families together in a safe and inclusive way.

“We’re continuing to make Xbox the best place for all entertainment needs as well as the most inclusive online environment we can through Xbox Live. Through regular updates to parental controls and safety features, options like the new Copilot mode, new accessibility settings and features such as “Clubs”, ensure you have the option to play with like-minded individuals in a safe online environment.”

For those wondering, “Co-pilot mode on Xbox links two controllers so you can use them as if they were one controller. Once linked, both controllers have full control and enable new shared gameplay experiences between friends and family, new accessibility options and better collaboration”, which I am guessing is a feature you won’t find on Playstations or Nintendos or iPhones or Apple TVs, although, it has to be said, I am not an expert in families nor games consoles, so I may well be wrong on this one.

In addition, we are advise that the “Clubs” Hinton refers to are “online meeting places created by the Xbox community for people to play and socialise in. Individuals can either join or create a club to suit their specific needs”.

They clearly are not night clubs or any other kind of club which you would be very unlikely to find in the family home, unless your family home is owned by Hugh Hefner or something like that, which is like, no-one except Hugh and his own famous mansion, a place where I imagine children are not allowed, and games consoles probably aren’t either, with various far more adult games at play.

The final stats (which make no mention of Playstations or GameCubes or Gameboys or Switches or Super Famicoms or Megadrives) states that “the research highlights that age or generation has an influence on the shared digital experiences you are most likely to take part in. Parents of millennials/Gen Y kids are most likely to take part in videogames, streaming and browsing YouTube, whilst those bonding between Generation X and baby boomers within the family are more likely to browse the Internet together or connect on social media”.

“Additionally, mums (45%) are just as likely to turn to video games as dads (55%), whilst the average age of the parent gamer was 42 with the most popular genres including action, sports and puzzles. More than half of families with Xbox Ones (54%) also played online games with their children.”

So, stop telling your kids to go outside and play ball. Get them back on their tablets, their phones, their Xboxes pronto! Start playing with them electronically and you too might finally, at long last, digitally bond with your children.

Or something like that.

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Toddler scares the crap out of her dad playing video games

Posted on July 25, 2017  in Video Games

Sometimes, you just need your daughter to scare the living shit out of you in order to make the internet pay attention.

Twitch streamer JurassicJunkieLive has been streaming his gaming sessions for about two months now but, with only a small following of about 100 people, not many people took note. Not until, that is, he started playing Outlast 2. He soon learned that his followers liked seeing some guy on the internet get scared like a child, by a child.

The other day, JurassicJunkieLive was streaming himself playing Outlast 2 when his partner decided to use their 2-year-old to deliver him a canned beverage, because really, that’s what kids are for. The gamer had headphones on, so he didn’t hear the kid coming at all.

“Due to my headphones I never heard her enter the room. At this point a crow jumped up in the game and made me scream, I then looked down to see a devil child looking back at me and screamed blue murder,” he wrote on Reddit

The clip now has over 1 million views on Twitch. His channel jumped from 100 followers to 2,400. 

Apparently, your kids can bring you drinks and an internet following. 

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