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Before there was a FarmVille or Words With Friends, gaming socially meant two people in a basement playing on a split screen—perhaps on two TVs, side by side, depending how old-school they were. Since then, video games have come a long way to connect players emotionally and socially with each other. The Internet, for example, opened up the doors to massive multiplayer games that can span thousands of people. For its next-generation console, PlayStation has put social front and center in an effort to “celebritize the gamer.”

Take for example, its DualShock controllers. A hallmark of PlayStation gaming, the vibrating feedback gives gamers a more visceral experience. In its evolution, among the changes the new DualShock 4 sports is a share button next to the directional pad.

The emphasis on social is also very evident with the console’s embedded services, including Facebook, Ustream, and most notably Twitch, a gaming-focused live-streaming service. Twitch, an offshoot of Justin.tv, is expected to penetrate more than half of American households with integration in the new PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles launching next month, said Matthew DiPietro, Twitch’s vice president of marketing and communications.

"The demand and desire on the part of the gamer is clearly there. What we wanted to do was remove all of those technological barriers," he said. Traditionally, broadcasting live game play has been what Koller considers a "janky" experience that involved a capture card, third-party software, a PC hooked up to the game console, and a lot of know-how. By removing all that friction and building live streaming into the PlayStation 4 on a system architecture level, it’s banking on Twitch—and to a lesser degree Ustream, which has a broader focus—to engage gamers, help them discover new experiences and titles, explore commerce opportunities with downloadable content packs—and most importantly, celebrate the gamer, Koller notes.

Would you shock your brain to improve your gaming high score? If so, Foc.us might be for you. The headset is supposed to help gamers “overclock” their brains by passing an electrical current through the prefrontal cortex. “Excite your prefrontal cortex and get the edge in online gaming,” says the Foc.us website.

Engadget’s Nicole Lee said she experienced a burning and tingling sensation with Foc.us:

We strapped the headset on for ourselves at a recent event, and we found it to be a weird experience. There was a strange, almost burning, sensation on the right part of our forehead, while the rest merely tingled. Oxley told us that it was normal for some people to feel it more on one side than the other, and that tDCS does take some getting used to. After about eight minutes, the tingling sensation remained even after we removed the headset. We didn’t really feel our powers of concentration improve that much afterward, but it’s hard to say after such a limited time.”

More…

The news that former Xbox chief Don Mattrick was leaving Microsoft to help revive the social gaming company Zynga has people wondering if Steven Spielberg will stick with Microsoft’s planned TV series based on the video game Halo.
The Halo series will, of course, proceed without Mattrick, but given that Mattrick’s close relationship with Spielberg was key in signing the deal, one has to wonder whether new snags might arise now that he’s gone. 
[Image courtesy of 343 Industries]

The news that former Xbox chief Don Mattrick was leaving Microsoft to help revive the social gaming company Zynga has people wondering if Steven Spielberg will stick with Microsoft’s planned TV series based on the video game Halo.

The Halo series will, of course, proceed without Mattrick, but given that Mattrick’s close relationship with Spielberg was key in signing the deal, one has to wonder whether new snags might arise now that he’s gone. 

[Image courtesy of 343 Industries]

Who is Don Mattrick, the guy who’s leaving Microsoft to join Zynga as CEO? Here, a few things you might want to know about him: 
He is currently president of the company’s Interactive Entertainment unit 
He was formerly at EA, where he was the force behind The Sims
He discovered a motion-control technology that had been kicking around the company but going nowhere. When Kinect launched in the fall of 2010, it became the fastest-selling consumer-electronics gadget of all time
He was the force behind the new Xbox One
He wears rainbow-stripe Paul Smith socks and once hired Cirque du Soleil to kick off a Microsoft event
His house is 25,000 square feet and is the largest in British Columbia
He has a 10-car garage
He’s worth $27 million
Here’s what else we know about Don Mattrick

Who is Don Mattrick, the guy who’s leaving Microsoft to join Zynga as CEO? Here, a few things you might want to know about him: 

  • He is currently president of the company’s Interactive Entertainment unit 
  • He was formerly at EA, where he was the force behind The Sims
  • He discovered a motion-control technology that had been kicking around the company but going nowhere. When Kinect launched in the fall of 2010, it became the fastest-selling consumer-electronics gadget of all time
  • He was the force behind the new Xbox One
  • He wears rainbow-stripe Paul Smith socks and once hired Cirque du Soleil to kick off a Microsoft event
  • His house is 25,000 square feet and is the largest in British Columbia
  • He has a 10-car garage
  • He’s worth $27 million

Here’s what else we know about Don Mattrick

The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, begins today in Los Angeles. 
E3 is the gaming industry’s biggest event of the year, when game developers, hardware makers, and enthusiasts alike converge on LA for the weeklong conference. 
Today’s opening briefings include presentations from Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Sony.
Fast Company has everything you need to stay on top of E3’s happenings. 

The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, begins today in Los Angeles.

E3 is the gaming industry’s biggest event of the year, when game developers, hardware makers, and enthusiasts alike converge on LA for the weeklong conference.

Today’s opening briefings include presentations from Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Sony.

Fast Company has everything you need to stay on top of E3’s happenings. 

A nationally representative scientific sample of over 19,000 married and divorced people found that almost 35% of couples who married between 2005 and 2012 originally met each other online. The couples who met online were less likely to divorce, even after controlling for age, education, income, and race. Meeting over the web was also independently correlated with higher levels of marital satisfaction.
Interestingly, it matters where a couple first meets: in the wholesome, well-lit hotel ballrooms of Match.com and eHarmony? The banal, crowded corridors of Facebook?
This study says a lot about the different kinds of “neighborhoods” that people frequent online. Read more
[Image: Flickr user Patrik Jones]

A nationally representative scientific sample of over 19,000 married and divorced people found that almost 35% of couples who married between 2005 and 2012 originally met each other online. The couples who met online were less likely to divorce, even after controlling for age, education, income, and race. Meeting over the web was also independently correlated with higher levels of marital satisfaction.

Interestingly, it matters where a couple first meets: in the wholesome, well-lit hotel ballrooms of Match.com and eHarmony? The banal, crowded corridors of Facebook?

This study says a lot about the different kinds of “neighborhoods” that people frequent online. Read more

[Image: Flickr user Patrik Jones]

Here are 2013’s 10 Most Innovative Companies In Gaming:
1. Rovio
The maker of Angry Birds is #1 for making apps the new source for big entertainment franchises.
2. Tencent Games
For leveraging its online distribution network and moving into content.
3. Activision
For elevating physical and digital play with its Skylanders series. Spyro’s Adventure and its sequel, Giants, feature dozens of chip-embedded action figures that interact with whatever happens on the screen, whether it’s a TV, computer, or handheld.
4. Microsoft
For revolutionizing home entertainment. Microsoft has assembled a digital living room. The system connects Windows, Xbox, and Kinect via SmartGlass, a free app that debuted last fall, which turns a portable device into a remote control and second screen.
5. Nintendo
For making the controller just as crucial to the gaming experience as the console and the Wii U.
6. Ouya
For electrifying gamers with a hackable console that features both a compelling design and an affordable device.
7. Telltale Games
For creating affordable appointment gaming. With The Walking Dead, Telltale has given gamers a way to play that’s amenable to busy schedules and with minimal upfront buy-in.
8. Valve
For pushing gaming into the hands of everyone. In 2012, it released its Source Filmmaker moviemaking tool to gamers for free, enabling just about anybody to produce Pixar-quality animation.
9. Imangi Studios
For pivoting into a freemium phenomenon. When sales started to slump (it was originally a 99-cent download), they made the game free to play and reaped about five times as much revenue.
10. Kabam
For turning hardcore gamers into a gold mine. Kabam puts out games that are long, complex, and appeal to players who are willing to devote lots of time to them…
[Image: Flickr user WastedButReady]

Here are 2013’s 10 Most Innovative Companies In Gaming:

1. Rovio

The maker of Angry Birds is #1 for making apps the new source for big entertainment franchises.

2. Tencent Games

For leveraging its online distribution network and moving into content.

3. Activision

For elevating physical and digital play with its Skylanders series. Spyro’s Adventure and its sequel, Giants, feature dozens of chip-embedded action figures that interact with whatever happens on the screen, whether it’s a TV, computer, or handheld.

4. Microsoft

For revolutionizing home entertainment. Microsoft has assembled a digital living room. The system connects Windows, Xbox, and Kinect via SmartGlass, a free app that debuted last fall, which turns a portable device into a remote control and second screen.

5. Nintendo

For making the controller just as crucial to the gaming experience as the console and the Wii U.

6. Ouya

For electrifying gamers with a hackable console that features both a compelling design and an affordable device.

7. Telltale Games

For creating affordable appointment gaming. With The Walking DeadTelltale has given gamers a way to play that’s amenable to busy schedules and with minimal upfront buy-in.

8. Valve

For pushing gaming into the hands of everyone. In 2012, it released its Source Filmmaker moviemaking tool to gamers for free, enabling just about anybody to produce Pixar-quality animation.

9. Imangi Studios

For pivoting into a freemium phenomenon. When sales started to slump (it was originally a 99-cent download), they made the game free to play and reaped about five times as much revenue.

10. Kabam

For turning hardcore gamers into a gold mine. Kabam puts out games that are long, complex, and appeal to players who are willing to devote lots of time to them…

[Image: Flickr user WastedButReady]

The idea that games can do good is rapidly gaining steam. Just in the past few months, we’ve covered I Heart Jellyfish, a game that rewards players for keeping a healthy heartbeat; WeTopia, a FarmVille-like game that easily allows players to contribute to nonprofits; and Global Giving, which turns aid evaluation into a game.
All of these games have one major thing in common: They’re directed toward users in the developed world. Not so with the games being developed by women’s rights movement Half the Sky and nonprofit gaming organization Games For Change. Instead of focusing on those of us equipped with smartphones and easy Internet access, these games—which focus on pregnancy education, intestinal worm prevention, and women’s rights—will home in on the millions of people outfitted with basic cell phones.
Half The Sky: Games For Change In The Developing World

The idea that games can do good is rapidly gaining steam. Just in the past few months, we’ve covered I Heart Jellyfish, a game that rewards players for keeping a healthy heartbeat; WeTopia, a FarmVille-like game that easily allows players to contribute to nonprofits; and Global Giving, which turns aid evaluation into a game.

All of these games have one major thing in common: They’re directed toward users in the developed world. Not so with the games being developed by women’s rights movement Half the Sky and nonprofit gaming organization Games For Change. Instead of focusing on those of us equipped with smartphones and easy Internet access, these games—which focus on pregnancy education, intestinal worm prevention, and women’s rights—will home in on the millions of people outfitted with basic cell phones.

Half The Sky: Games For Change In The Developing World

Kinect hack of the day: Xbox is unveiling a sharp idea called Xbox Kinect TV for the next generation of television: interactive, live-action content, produced in partnership Sesame Workshop and National Geographic. That’s right folks, Sesame Street 2.0 is set to prepare your kids for the new media world. Watch the video & read all about it here.

Take a look at this demo of the new Wii U. The touchscreen controller is tethered wirelessly to the console. The next generation of gaming begins!

The Nintendo Wii U, the latest console from Japanese gaming company Nintendo, was announced in a press event in Los Angeles today. Though a follow-up to their popular and bestselling Wii, the Wii U shows a new strategy for the company: beating PS3 and Xbox 360 at providing the most cutting edge HD graphics—a demo of a bird flying through a landscape provided realism beyond current gaming tech. It will launch Holiday season 2012.

Activating Jedi powers with motions actually used in the movies? Yes, please!

Humans were not meant to experience the exhilaration of  life-threatening action while slumped on a couch covered in Doritos  crumbs. Celebrity voice-overs and cinema story lines are drops in a  shallow pool of experience without raw physiological emotion.
From recognizing the trigger-pulling motion of a single finger to  activating Jedi powers through a push of the hands, Microsoft has taken a  leap forward toward a more visceral gaming experience with enhanced  gestural commands that control avatars with intuitive, life-like  movements. At yesterday’s Xbox E3 announcement, Microsoft demonstrated two games  that may give them a lengthening lead in the three-way race for gamer  dollars.

Continued…

Activating Jedi powers with motions actually used in the movies? Yes, please!

Humans were not meant to experience the exhilaration of life-threatening action while slumped on a couch covered in Doritos crumbs. Celebrity voice-overs and cinema story lines are drops in a shallow pool of experience without raw physiological emotion.

From recognizing the trigger-pulling motion of a single finger to activating Jedi powers through a push of the hands, Microsoft has taken a leap forward toward a more visceral gaming experience with enhanced gestural commands that control avatars with intuitive, life-like movements. At yesterday’s Xbox E3 announcement, Microsoft demonstrated two games that may give them a lengthening lead in the three-way race for gamer dollars.

Continued…