Tag Archives: gamers

‘Civilization’ shoots for the stars

Our planet isn’t in very good shape. The good news, according to “Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth” (2K Games, for the PC, $49.99), is that we’ll be able to hang around for another 500 years or so. The bad news: After that, we’d better start looking for a new home.

It’s not the freshest sci-fi premise — “Interstellar” has essentially the same setup — but it gives Meier and his Firaxis Games studio a chance to expand the beloved Civilization franchise to entirely new worlds. It’s a mostly successful transplant, though at times I wished its scope was even more cosmic.

You begin by selecting one of eight “sponsors.” The United States, Canada and Mexico are now part of the American Reclamation Corp., for example, while China, Japan and Korea have joined forces in the Pan-Asian Cooperative. Their figureheads lack the charisma of classic Civ leaders like Alexander and Napoleon, and their differences aren’t that substantial in the long run.

You have a few other choices regarding passengers, spacecraft and cargo, each of which accelerates the game’s early stages. Then it’s time to make landfall. Sadly, your new home isn’t entirely welcoming; some areas are drenched with a poisonous miasma, and the native insectoids are all too eager to make a meal out of anyone who ventures away from your colony.

Obviously, we’re well beyond the “dawn of man” setup of earlier Civs, so you don’t have to teach your settlers rudimentary skills like agriculture and writing. Instead, you have an elaborate “tech web” that starts with topics like physics and genetics and levels all the way up to exotic sciences like neural uploading and artificial evolution.

All this new technology is a bit overwhelming, and if you’re not a science fiction fan you may be baffled by terms like nanorobotics and geoscaping. But “Beyond Earth” provides a helpful quest structure that lets you focus on short-term goals while you figure out what it will take to conquer the planet.

The game also lets you invest in four kinds of “virtues”: might, prosperity, knowledge and industry. And you score points in three “affinities”: harmony (adapting to the planet), purity (preserving earthling qualities) and supremacy (evolving beyond human flesh). Those points are essential to your ultimate triumph, which can be achieved several ways. Harmony, for example, can lead to transcendence, defined as the “merging of consciousness of all living things with the latent sentience of the planet.” Heavy.

While you’re juggling all that, you also have to contend with the demands of neighboring factions from Earth, which you can handle diplomatically or aggressively. There are many complicated systems at play, but Firaxis makes them work together smoothly.

Players itching to build a galaxy-spanning empire may be disappointed, because once you’ve landed on your planet, you’re pretty much stuck there. But Civ fans looking for a new world to conquer will be over the moon. Three stars out of four.

Online:

http://www.civilization.com/en/games/civilization-beyond-earth/ 

Nintendo apologizes for excluding gay relationships in ‘Life’ game

Nintendo is apologizing and pledging to be more inclusive after being criticized for not recognizing same-sex relationships in English editions of a life-simulator video game. The publisher said that while it was too late to change the current game, it was committed to building virtual equality into future versions if they’re produced.

Nintendo came under fire from fans and gay rights organizations this past week after refusing to add same-sex relationship options to the game “Tomodachi Life.”

“We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in ‘Tomodachi Life,'” Nintendo said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch.”

The game was originally released in Japan last year and features a cast of Mii characters — Nintendo’s personalized avatars of real players — living on a virtual island. Gamers can do things like shop, play games, go on dates, get married and encounter celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Shaquille O’Neal. Already a hit in Japan, “Tomodachi Life” is set for release June 6 in North America and Europe.

Tye Marini, a 23-year-old gay Nintendo fan from Mesa, Arizona, launched a social media campaign last month seeking virtual equality for the game’s characters.

“I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé’s Mii, but I can’t do that,” Marini said in a video posted online that attracted the attention of gaming sites and online forums this past week. “My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiancé’s Mii or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it.”

Marini said Saturday that he was “very happy” with Nintendo’s response. “I don’t believe they are a homophobic company at all,” Marini said. “I think that the exclusion of same-sex relationships was just an unfortunate oversight.”

Yet the issue does mark a cultural divide between Japan, where gay marriage is not legal, and North America and Europe, where gay marriage has become legal in some places. It also highlights the problems with “localization,” the process when games are changed to suit different locales and customs.

The uproar prompted Kyoto, Japan-based Nintendo Co. and its subsidiary Nintendo of America Inc. to pledge to create a more inclusive “Tomodachi” installment in the future.

“We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone,” Nintendo said. “We pledge that if we create a next installment in the `Tomodachi’ series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.”

While many English-language games don’t feature gay characters, several role-playing series produced by English-speaking developers, such as Electronic Arts, “The Sims,” Microsoft Studios’ “Fable” and Bethesda Softworks’ “The Elder Scrolls,” have allowed players to create characters that can woo others of the same sex, as well as marry and have children.

After Nintendo said this past week — in response to Marini’s growing campaign — that it wouldn’t add same-sex relationship options to “Tomodachi Life,” the publisher of such gaming franchises as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Mario Bros.” was called out by fans and organizations such as the gay advocacy group GLAAD.

“Nintendo has taken a first step, but if the company’s longtime values are rooted in ‘fun and entertainment for everyone,’ then it needs to catch up to peers like Electronic Arts, which has been inclusive of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) gamers for years,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement.

Game developers take up social issues at S.F. conference

The video game industry is taking itself more seriously.

Besides the usual talk of polygons, virtual worlds and artificial intelligence at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, there are discussions led by game makers about such socially conscious topics as designing for gamers with disabilities, battling depression at game studios and tackling hate speech in online game communities.

The organizers of GDC, which kicked off Monday at the Moscone Center and continues through Friday, have expanded the conference’s advocacy-themed sessions with panels featuring such titles as “Beyond Graphics: Reaching the Visually Impaired Gamer,” “How to Subversively Queer Your Work” and “Women Don’t Want to Work in Games (and Other Myths).”

“It’s something that in some way or another has always been part of the conference, but it’s something that we’ve found interest in genuinely continue to grow as the industry has become more diverse and inclusive,” said Simon Carless, executive vice president of UBM Tech Game Network, which organizes GDC and several other technology conventions.

This year’s conference has attracted about 23,000 game developers and executives from across the globe. Carless and other GDC organizers, which includes an advocacy advisory committee made up of game designers, hope that examinations of racism, misogyny and homophobia in games aid the industry’s continued fight for wider cultural legitimacy.

Rosalind Wiseman, author of the book “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” which inspired the Lindsay Lohan film “Mean Girls,” was part of a Tuesday discussion about gaming and social hierarchies among boys. The panel examined how the games that young men choose to play effect their popularity, as well as their social competence in moments of conflict.

Other speakers include Adam Orth, who left Microsoft Corp. last year after fiery Twitter exchanges about “always-on” technology; Manveer Heir, a game maker who works on the “Mass Effect” sci-fi series, which features gay and lesbian characters; and Toshifumi Nakabayashi, who organizes an annual game workshop to support Fukushima disaster victims.

Despite the refreshed focus on real-world issues at the convention, how to view and interact with ever-changing virtual worlds will ultimately take center stage at GDC. PlayStation 4 creator Sony Corp. teased its rendition of virtual reality technology during a Tuesday presentation called “Driving the Future of Innovation at Sony Computer Entertainment.”

Meanwhile, a handful of developers are showing off software using the VR goggles Oculus Rift, which captured attendees’ attention at last year’s conference. The exhibit “ALT.CTRL.GDC” highlights 14 games that utilize such alternative control schemes, like a piano-powered version of the sidescroller “Canabalt” and a holographic display called Voxiebox.

This year’s conference, the largest annual gathering of game creators outside the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles in June, is the first since Sony and Microsoft respectively released its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles last year. Several sessions scheduled this year are dedicated to creating games for those systems, as well as more popular mobile platforms.

On the Web…

HTTP://WWW.GDCONF.COM