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Video Games Prime Movers Show Off New Dimensions at E3 2010

Video Games Prime Movers Show Off New Dimensions at E3 2010 (photo)

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Every year, video game developers and the gamers who love their creations flock to Los Angeles for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as E3, a showcase of the hottest new titles and trends for the upcoming year. The industry’s biggest studios, designers and publishers all compete for the precious hands-on time that generates the hype so crucial to making their games a success.

Throughout the three-day extravaganza, the expo floor’s an intense cacophony of music, game sounds and occasionally frantic yelling. And on top of all of that, the platform holders — the companies who makes the PC and console hardware those games run on — offer arguments as to why a PC, Wii, Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 is superior to its competitors.

Ever since video gaming became a pop culture phenomenon in the 1980s, gamers have been pushing buttons and moving controllers to battle giant monsters or explore alien landscapes. But at this year’s E3, there are signs that button-mashing may be getting replaced by arm-waving and body contortions.

The rising trend of gesture-controlled gaming started in 2006 when Nintendo introduced their revolutionary Wii console. Using a remote and nunchuk, the Wii replicated the players’ movements on TV screens, letting them bowl, box or play tennis in a simple and fun way. The Wii became a huge success, and now Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 are showing off their own motion gaming add-ons.

Announced this year at the Game Developers’ Conference, the Playstation 3’s motion controller goes by the name Move. With a bulb-tipped wand and a sub-controller used for navigation, it will work with a camera to capture movements in real time for a variety of different games.

It’s more precise than the Wii and the better graphics on the PS3 make games built for the Move look incredibly realistic. Sony’s touting this realism, along with the ability to play established franchises that hardcore gamers love — like military third-person shooter “SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs” — with Move, as an advantage over Nintendo.

Sony also trotted out the first steps of its 3D strategy, coinciding with a software update that lets PS3 users play select titles in 3D. Of course, you need a bleeding-edge 3D-capable HDTV to take advantage of that viewing mode. (Conveniently, the Playstation division’s just one part of a huge conglomerate that also sells 3D TVs.)

06252010_killzone3a.jpgThe marquee title used to show off the PS3 3D experience was “Killzone 3,” a sci-fi first-person shooter. Playing the FPS with 3D glasses made the alien landscape seem even more vast, foreign and hostile. One giant gun you get to carry stretched far out into the background and enemies wearing jetpacks floated away from the screen, threatening to blast the viewer right in the face. Still, ten or 15 minutes of watching and playing KZ3 made eyes water and heads ache, so the kind of three- to four-hour marathon session usually enjoyed by FPS players will be a lot tougher to enjoy.

While Sony’s Move controllers are looking to improve on the idea of controller-based gesture input, Microsoft wants to do away with the controller altogether. The Kinect add-on for the Xbox 360 uses a camera that senses depth and tracks your skeleton to allow for full-body control of a whole series of games. Kinect will let you run hurdles in a track event and even play with a baby tiger. Its voice recognition will let you control playback of movies and TV shows, too. Here’s my Q&A with a Sega developer about “Sonic Free Riders,” the publisher’s initial efforts on Kinect:

Confident in their lead in the home console arms race, Nintendo’s big push was on the handheld front, with the debut of the Nintendo 3DS. The next evolutionary step of their wildly popular DS portable, the 3DS also traffics in the third dimension, but does so without requiring any special glasses. It seems that there’s a lenticular screen interpolating offset images. The slider on the side of the unit changes just how offset they are, which creates more or less depth. The slider also lets you turn the 3D off entirely, too.

Ushering in the 3DS is the return of the company’s beloved “Kid Icarus” franchise. Long absent from a starring role in his own game, angelic hero Pit flew through webs of energy and over cloudy skyscapes in the demo shown after the Nintendo press conference featured.

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Games won’t be the only content on the 3DS, though; major movie studios have also pledged to make their films available on the portable. Slated to show up on 3DS are titles like “How To Train Your Dragon” and Disney’s upcoming “Tangled.” Another added feature the 3DS will sport is a built-in two-lens camera so users can snap their own depth-laden images.

All of this means that, this coming fall, there’ll be a massive battle to see who comes out on top of the motion-gaming heap. Whether it’s Playstation Move, Kinect for the Xbox 360 or Nintendo’s Wii, each system will have lots of cool new experiences for their fans. So it’s gamers all over the world who will be the real winners.

[Additional photos: Playing “Sonic Free Riders”; “Killzone 3,” Sony, 2011; Nintendo 3DS]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.