December 2011


The past year has offered plenty of major stories to keep gamers chattering. Here’s what we thought were the most important stories to hit the industry over the past 12 months.

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While politicians routinely cite video games as a contributing cause for everything from childhood obesity and lower test scores to youth violence, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) recently labeled a video game museum as something else — a waste of taxpayer funds.
At No. 9 on Sen. Coburn’s “Wastebook 2011” list of 100 federal programs he sees as frivolous is over $113,000 in funding for the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG), an outgrowth of the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.

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Stories of Xbox Live users seeing their accounts hacked and used to make unauthorized purchases have continued to come in at a slow trickle since they were first widely reported last October. But one user has taken to the Internet with a highly personal account of her hacking experience, and what she says was, initially, an almost total lack of help from Microsoft on the matter.

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“I want to clear my name. I want to get these people to stop bothering me.”
That was the main message from Ocean Marketing’s Paul Christoforo, a former representative for N-Control’s Avenger controller attachment. He gained immediate infamy among the Internet gaming community after a hostile customer service email exchange went viral after landing on popular gaming webcomic Penny Arcade.

In a matter of hours, Christoforo went from being just another customer service agent to a focus of ire for thousands of gamers. Christoforo was featured in mocking images and videos, and the Avenger product he was representing was hit with widespread derision and negative Amazon reviews, forcing the company to publicly drop Christoforo as its marketing representative.

A chastened Christoforo is now looking for forgiveness from the Internet community he unwittingly antagonized, saying in an interview with msnbc.com’s In-Game he was “caught on a bad day” and that he hopes they will “let sleeping dogs lie.”

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Each year brings a host of new technologies to the table that make the gaming landscape seem significantly different from what came before, and 2011 was no different. Here are some of the most important technological advancements the game industry saw in the past 12 months.

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A lot has changed in the over three decades Shigeru Miyamoto has acted as Nintendo’s key creative visionary, shepherding series like Mario and The Legend of Zelda through over a dozen major iterations each. With both franchises now pushing past 25 years on the market, Miyamoto told msnbc.com’s In-Game that the evolution of Nintendo’s series has involved coordination between creating new technology and creating new gameplay simultaneously.
“In the case of ‘The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess,’ specifically, of course we took advantage of the motion-sensing technology to some extent,” Miyamoto said of the Wii launch title that first showed off the system’s motion-sensing remote. “However, we felt that something was lacking and we wanted to do more with more precise motion sensing technology, so at that time we were able to identify the specific technology we really want to use for the next time.”

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To say that writing “Star Wars: The Old Republic” was a massive undertaking would be an understatement. Like seemingly everything in the multi-year development of Bioware’s highly anticipated massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, which has already attracted over a million players before its official launch today, the developers took their previous experience making epic single-player console role-playing games (RPGs) and scaled it up for a new gaming space.
“The Old Republic” is “ten times bigger than any game we’ve ever done before,” Lead Writer Daniel Erickson said in an interview with msnbc.com’s In-Game. “It’s pretty much as big as every game we’ve done before put together.” The game’s 20 writers coordinated on what amounted to 60 man-years of work on the games multiple branching storylines, Erickson said, leading to the humbling thought that “it would have taken one person their entire natural life to write [the game].”

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Microsoft’s Kinect 3D camera got its start as an accessory that lets you use your body as a controller for Xbox 360 games like Dance Central. Since then, hackers have used the hardware for everything from art projects to robotic helicopters! Here are just some of the cool things clever hackers have done with Microsoft’s depth-sensing camera.

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When EA acquired the exclusive rights to the NFL license in late 2004, now-defunct publisher and former Blitz owner Midway used the opportunity to effect a bold change in direction for its popular football series, which originally debuted in arcades in 1997 as NFL Blitz.

2005’s Blitz: The League and its 2008 sequel featured fictional players and teams engaging in the kinds of activities that the real-life league would never approve of in an officially licensed game. Players earned bonus money for brutal, injury-inducing hits, which they could use to gamble on game results, buy drugs to treat injuries and even hire prostitutes to distract the opposing team.

Now, with the rights to the Blitz franchise in the hands of EA, the NFL imprimatur is back on the series’ coming relaunch, which has been in development for over a year by EA Tiburon.

“I think that without the NFL license, the game wouldn’t be NFL Blitz,” project lead Dave Ross told Gamasutra in a recent interview. “It’s kind of the hyper-real NFL football experience where you’ve got the 32 teams, 32 stadiums. For me it’s a lot of fun to choose my favorite team and go up against their rivals and opponents as I work my way through the game, so I think the game absolutely has to be NFL Blitz.”

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Legendary Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto — creator of long-running series including Donkey Kong, Mario and The Legend of Zelda — set off a bit of a firestorm Wednesday evening when a Wired report quoted him as saying he was planning on giving up his current, executive oversight role with the company in favor of a more hands-on approach to developing smaller, more personal games.

“Inside our office, I’ve been recently declaring, ‘I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire,’” Miyamoto said in the Wired report, referring to his current position at the company.
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Nintendo’s Japanese stock dropped 2 percent on the news before Nintendo put out an official retraction, stressing in part that “Shigeru Miyamoto’s role at Nintendo is not changing” and that his future priorities are “inclusive of overseeing all video game development and ensuring the quality of all products.”

Now, in an interview with msnbc.com’s In-Game, Miyamoto has repeated that assurance and clarified how he says his statements were misinterpreted.

“There is no plan to retire. I have no intention to retire,” he said through an interpreter. “And probably they won’t allow me to retire,” he continued, before quickly noting that this last part was a joke.

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