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Violent Video Games Only Affect Some People 236

An anonymous reader writes "The media would have you believe that violent video games will be the downfall of our civilization and the cause of moral decline in young people. A recent study suggests that most people aren't so easily influenced by the violence; instead, just a few bad apples are likely to react poorly, with everyone else showing little or no effect from playing these games." The American Psychological Association has posted the academic paper (PDF) as well, in addition to a few related studies. One examines how games can be a force for good (PDF), and another looks at the motivations behind children playing such games (PDF).

EA Shuts Down Pandemic Studios, Cuts 200 Jobs 161

lbalbalba writes "Electronic Arts is shutting down its Westwood-based game developer Pandemic Studios just two years after acquiring it, putting nearly 200 people out of work. 'The struggling video game publisher informed employees Tuesday morning that it was closing the studio as part of a recently announced plan to eliminate 1,500 jobs, or 16% of its global workforce. Pandemic has about 220 employees, but an EA spokesman said that a core team, estimated by two people close to the studio to be about 25, will be integrated into the publisher's other Los Angeles studio, in Playa Vista.' An ex-developer for Pandemic attributed the studio's struggles to poor decisions from the management."
Role Playing (Games)

D&D Co-Creator Gary Gygax Has Passed Away 512

Mearlus writes "In the recent past co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons Gary Gygax has worked with Troll Lord Games, a small tabletop RPG publisher. Their forums have up a post noting that Mr. Gygax has apparently passed away. Gygax was known, along with Dave Arneson, as the Father of Roleplaying." Saddened reactions from well-known designers have already begun to appear online. Consider this is an in-memoriam Ask Slashdot question: How has D&D (and tabletop roleplaying) touched/improved your life? Update: 03/04 23:16 GMT by Z : With more time, official announcements have had time to appear. Many sites are featuring posts on Gygax's impact on gaming, including touching entries on Salon and CNet.

Feed Techdirt: Is AT&T Siding With NBC To Get Rid Of Neutrality? (

I tend to be skeptical when people start screaming "net neutrality" when it's not warranted, but here's a situation where it may be worth asking a few questions. We've been wondering for some time why ATT would agree to help NBC try to block the transfer of any unauthorized content on its network. It made very little sense at the time. ATT (in its previous versions) had actually been one of the big proponents of the "safe harbor" clause in the DMCA that meant it didn't need to police the content on its own network. So why would it suddenly, voluntarily, be saying it wants to spend time, money and energy in an impossible effort to police the content shared across its own network?

A clue may be found in an MPAA FCC filing over the summer, where it spoke stridently against any network neutrality rules, for fear that such rules might make it impossible for ISPs to police content -- something the MPAA has been pushing for over the last few months, resulting in the recent PRO IP bill (which is actually very anti IP, but that's a different story). Basically, the MPAA (mainly NBC Universal) was offering up a compromise plan to the telcos: you support us by policing your network and we'll support you in trying to double charge popular websites.

With that said, it should come as no surprise that NBC Universal and ATT are now acting like best buddies as they discuss plans for filters. Lobbyists from both companies were at CES saying typically misleading things. ATT's James Cicconi talked about how what was being done to stop piracy wasn't enough -- but fails to note that it's not his problem. Legally. Legally, ATT shouldn't even get close to trying to police its own network, as it actually opens the company up to more liability. But, in its greed to be able to set up extra tollbooths, the company appears to recognize that using "piracy" as an excuse for blocking is a way in the backdoor, potentially even around the very promises ATT made to keep the net neutral for 30 months in order to get approval to buy BellSouth.

The statement from NBC Universal is even worse -- but not at all surprising, coming from the man, Rick Cotton, who gave us the easily proven false statement about how piracy was hurting the poor corn farmers of America (who aren't hurting at all, and on whom piracy has no impact). When it was pointed out to Cotton that blocking content could be legally questionable, his response wasn't to address the actual concerns over filtering, but to go with the ever creative defense of throwing up his hands in frustration: "The volume of peer-to-peer traffic online, dominated by copyrighted materials, is overwhelming. That clearly should not be an acceptable, continuing status." Yes, because as long as the threats to your obsolete business model are "overwhelming," no one else's rights matter in the slightest. It's similar to Doug Morris at sister company Universal Music. Basically: "we're too clueless to recognize that the market has changed and that we need to adjust our business models -- so instead, we will demand that everyone else change in an attempt to keep the world the way it was a decade ago." Back here in the real world, those strategies tend not to work, though they can cause plenty of damage in the short term.

About the only good news concerning all of this is that when asked to join them, Apple told ATT and NBC Universal to get stuffed. Microsoft, on the other hand, joined right up to help. What we're witnessing is a collaboration among companies too short-sighted to recognize how the market is changing, who will team up to pretend to bolster each other's outdated business model. Hopefully, if Congress and the FCC don't make it impossible, the rest of the world will simply route around them and build the new business models for tomorrow. Still, with the FCC potentially cracking down on Comcast's efforts at traffic shaping, it'll be fascinating to see how the FCC responds to ATT being even more proactive in blocking content. Given Kevin Martin's earlier statements about ignoring ATT net neutrality promises combined with his close relationship with the telcos, somehow we get the feeling they won't face very much pressure.

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Submission + - SPAM: White House gets green: Federal Budget goes online

coondoggie writes: "Looking to save $1 million, 20 tons of paper, or close to 500 trees, the White House said today President Bush's 2009 Federal Budget will for the first time be posted online. The E-Budget will be available for downloading at the Office of Management and Budget Web site on Feb. 4. Typically the White House has paper-bombed congress and anyone else who wanted to read the budget with a tome which can reach 3,000 pages and weighed multiple pounds each. [spam URL stripped]"
Link to Original Source

Submission + - Super Soaker Inventor to Double Solar Efficiency

mattnyc99 writes: And you thought CES was going green: With top geeks saying photovoltaic cells are still four years away from costing as much as the grid, and the first U.S. thermal power plant just getting into production, there's plenty of solar hype without any practical solution that's efficient enough. Until Lonnie Johnson came along. The man who invented the Super Soaker water gun turns out to be a nuclear engineer who's developed a solid-state heat engine that converts the sun's heat to electricity at 60-percent efficiency—double the rate of the next most successful solar process. And his innovation, called the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Conversion (JTEC) system, is getting funding from the National Science Foundation, so this is no toy. From the article: "If it proves feasible, drastically reducing the cost of solar power would only be a start. JTEC could potentially harvest waste heat from internal combustion engines and combustion turbines, perhaps even the human body. And no moving parts means no friction and fewer mechanical failures."

Submission + - Rape Trial by Facebook (

matthew_t_west writes: "A vigilante group of students at Lewis & Clark College of Portland, OR decided to take a sexual assault into their own hands by creating a group on Facebook. The group, "Morgan Shaw-Fox is a Piece of !^&% Rapist," was created as a means to bring the alleged rapist to justice. Is bringing someone to justice the job of peers, the institution, the media, or the law?"

Submission + - Jack Thompson Sues Best Buy (

Jthon writes: Game Politics is reporting that our favorite crazy lawyer Jack Thompson is suing Best Buy for selling M rated games to minors online. Apparently Jack is not happy that Best Buy's website doesn't require someone under 17 to submit proof of their age. Best Buy and the FTC both seem to think that requiring a credit card for an online purchase meets this requirement.

Apparently, a more thorough check is needed to stop all those 17 year olds with credit cards from buying games online.

PC Games (Games)

The Importance of Portal 222

Team Fortress 2 and Episode Two may have been more anticipated elements of Valve's Orange Box offering, but it's the charmingly small Portal that's been getting a lot of attention in the last few days. MTV's Multiplayer blog thinks the game has the move of the year, and the Gamers with Jobs site offers up a convincing argument why Portal represents a significant step forward for storytelling in games: "Portal is an object lesson in interactive storytelling. We in the media are so fond of shaking our heads, scratching our beards and looking for the "art" in videogames. Well it's time for us all to shut the hell up. This is it. It's in this finely crafted, lovingly rendered piece of short-story literature. Honestly, I'd be surprised if the authors themselves see it as the accomplishment it is. It's a simple set of mechanics, a few pages of sound-booth dialog, a handful of textures and repetitive level designs. But then, a novel is only made up of 26 letters, black ink and white paper. And most artists of lasting brilliance don't recognize the importance of their own work. And how many now-revered musicians and painters died unknown and broke?" If you still haven't heard it, Jonathan Coulton's 'Still Alive' (the ending theme to Portal) has been in my head for over a week now. Just try to get it out of yours.

Submission + - Star Trek device comes to the emergency room (

coondoggie writes: "Researchers are experimenting with a device right out of Star Trek: a Tricorder-like tool that uses high-intensity focused ultrasound rays. On Star Trek Tricorders had multiple functions but the medical version used by Bones McCoy could scan a body and help diagnose and heal injured or sick patients. In this case, Engineers at the University of Washington are testing a device that uses multiple lenses to focus high-intensity ultrasound beams at a particular spot inside the body on the patient's lungs. Focusing the ultrasound beams, in a process similar to focusing sunlight with a magnifying glass, creates a tiny but extremely hot spot about the size and shape of a grain of rice. The rays heat the blood cells until they form a seal. Meanwhile the tissue between the device and the spot being treated does not get hot, as it would with a laser beam."

Videogames Make Better Horror Than Movies? 225

Wired author Clive Thompson has up an article stating that, with today's jaded audiences, videogames are more effective horror-conveyances than movies. Thompson argues that the removal of the fourth wall, placing the player directly into the story, overcomes the obstacles movie-makers face when telling a scary story. "I'll start down a corridor, hear something freaky up ahead, then freeze in panic. Maybe if I stay quiet the monster will go away? S^!t, maybe it's already headed this way, and I should move! But if I move the monster will hear me ... so maybe I should stay quiet ... gaaaaah! Games already seem like dream states. You're wandering around a strange new world, where you simultaneously are and aren't yourself. This is already an inherently uncanny experience. That's why a well-made horror game feels so claustrophobically like being locked inside a really bad -- by which I mean a really good -- nightmare." Do you agree? Is your favorite scary tale a movie ... or a game? (Silent Hill, I'm looking at you.)

Submission + - Paramount, Dreamworks go HD-DVD exclusive (

An anonymous reader writes: Paramount, Dreamworks go HD-DVD exclusive. Animation and film studios will release movies exclusively in HD DVD format, despite higher sales of rival Blu-Ray.

Submission + - Scientists claim to have broken the speed of light (

GnarlyDoug writes: German scientists claim that they have broken the speed of light barrier while researching quantum tunneling. In effect they claimed that some photons traveled a greater distance than other photons in the same amount of time, and thus moved faster than the speed of light. Personally I'll wait to see what happens when their tests are peer reviewed and duplicated, but it's interesting.
Role Playing (Games)

Submission + - Dungeons and Dragon's 4th edition (

An anonymous reader writes: 0816005037/dungeons-dragonsr-flashes-4-ward-at-gen -con.html Today Wizards of the Coast confirms that the new edition will launch in May 2008 with the release of the D&D Player's Handbook(R). A pop culture icon, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is the #1 tabletop roleplaying game in the world and is revered by legions of gamers of all ages. The 4th Edition DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game includes elements familiar to current D&D players, including illustrated rulebooks and pre-painted plastic miniatures. Also releasing next year will be new Web-based tools and online community forums through the brand new DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Insider (D&D Insider(TM)) digital offering. D&D Insider lowers the barriers of entry for new players while simultaneously offering the depth of play that appeals to veteran players.

Numeric stability is probably not all that important when you're guessing.