DeepMind is mostly known for its work in deep reinforcement learning, especially in mastering complicated games and predicting protein structures. Now, it is taking its next step in robotics research.
According to a blog post on DeepMind’s website, the company has acquired the rigid-body physics simulator MuJoCo and has made it freely available to the research community. MuJoCo is now one of several open-source platforms for training artificial intelligence agents used in robotics applications. Its free availability will have a positive impact on the work of scientists who are struggling with the costs of robotics research. It can also be an important factor for DeepMind’s future, both as a science lab seeking artificial general intelligence and as a business unit of one of the largest tech companies in the world.
Simulating the real world
Simulation platforms are a big deal in robotics. Training and testing robots in the real world is expensive and slow. Simulated environments, on the other hand, allow researchers to train multiple AI agents in parallel and at speeds that are much faster than real life. Today, most robotics research teams carry out the bulk of training their AI models in simulated environments. The trained models are then tested and further fine-tuned on real physical robots.
The past few years have seen the launch of several simulation environments for reinforcement learning and robotics.
MuJoCo, which stands for Multi-Joint Dynamics with Contact, is not the only game in town. There are other physics simulators such as PyBullet, Roboschool, and Isaac Gym. But what makes MuJoCo stand out from others is the fine-grained detail that has gone into simulating contact surfaces. MuJoCo performs a more accurate modeling of the laws of physics, which is shown in the emergence of physical phenomena such as Newton’s Cradle.
MuJoCo also has built-in features that support the simulation of musculoskeletal models of humans and animals, which is especially important in bipedal and quadruped robots.
The increased accuracy of the physics environment can help reduce the differences between the simulated environment and the real world. Called the “sim2real gap,” these differences cause a degradation in the performance of the AI models when they are transferred from simulation to the real world. A smaller sim2real gap reduces the need for adjustments in the physical world.
Making MuJoCo available for free
Before DeepMind open-sourced MuJuCo, many researchers were frustrated with its license costs and opted to use the free PyBullet platform. In 2017, OpenAI released Roboschool, a license-free alternative to MuJoCo, for Gym, its toolkit for training deep reinforcement learning models for robotics and other applications.
“After we launched Gym, one issue we heard from many users was that the MuJoCo component required a paid license … Roboschool removes this constraint, letting everyone conduct research regardless of their budget,” OpenAI wrote in a blog post.
A more recent paper by researchers in Cardiff University states that “The cost of a Mujoco institutional license is at least $3000 per year, which is often unaffordable for many small research teams, especially when a long-term project depends on it.”
DeepMind’s blog refers to a recent article in PNAS that discusses the use of simulation in robotics. The authors recommend better support for the development of open-source simulation platforms and write, “A robust and feature-rich set of four or five simulation tools available in the open-source domain is critical to advancing the state of the art in robotics.”
“In line with these aims, we’re committed to developing and maintaining MuJoCo as a free, open-source, community-driven project with best-in-class capabilities,” DeepMind’s blog post states.
It is worth noting, however, that license fees account for a very small part of the costs of training AI models for robots. The computational costs of robotics research tend to rise along with the complexity of the application.
MuJoCo only runs on CPUs, according to its documentation. It hasn’t been designed to leverage the power of GPUs, which have many more computation cores than traditional processors.
A recent paper by researchers at the University of Toronto, Nvidia, and other organizations highlights the limits of simulation platforms that work on CPUs only. For example, Dactyl, a robotic hand developed by OpenAI, was trained on a compute cluster comprising around 30,000 CPU cores. These kinds of costs remain a challenge with CPU-based platforms such as MuJoCo.
DeepMind’s view on intelligence
DeepMind’s mission is to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI), the flexible kind of innate and learned problem-solving capabilities found in humans and animals. While the path to AGI (and whether we will ever reach it or not) is hotly debated among scientists, DeepMind has a clearly expressed view on it.
In a paper published earlier this year, some of DeepMind’s top scientists suggested that “reward is enough” to reach AGI. According to DeepMind’s scientists, if you have a complex environment, a well-defined reward, and a good reinforcement learning algorithm, you can develop AI agents that will acquire the traits of general intelligence. Richard Sutton, who is among the co-authors of the paper, is one of the pioneers of reinforcement learning and describes it as “the first computational theory of intelligence.”
The acquisition of MuJoCo can provide DeepMind with a powerful tool to test this hypothesis and gradually build on top of its results. By making it available to small research teams, DeepMind can also help nurture talent it will hire in the future.
MuJoCo can also boost DeepMind’s efforts to turn in profits for its parent company, Alphabet. In 2020, the AI lab recorded its first profit after six years of sizable costs for Alphabet. DeepMind is already home to some of the brightest scientists in AI. And with autonomous mobile robots such as Boston Dynamics’ Spot slowly finding their market, DeepMind might be able to develop a business model that serves both its scientific goal and its owner’s interests.
Ben Dickson is a software engineer and the founder of TechTalks. He writes about technology, business, and politics.
Sony’s PlayStation 5 sales remain relatively steady and strong, despite widespread supply shortages, with 3.3 million units sold in fiscal Q2 compared to 2.2 million last quarter. That brought total sales up to 13.4 million units, Sony announced. Game sales were also up significantly at 76.4 million units compared to 63.6 million in the previous quarter, due in large part to third-party sales.
All told, this amounted to a healthy 27 percent boost in gaming revenue to 645.4 billion yen ($5.68 billion). However, operating income of 82.7 billion yen ($728 million) was down compared to last quarter by 3.4 billion yen ($29 million). Sony’s fiscal year ends on March 31, 2022.
So how can profit be lower when sales and revenue are up? While Sony did sell more games last quarter, first-party titles dropped very significantly, from 10.5 million last quarter to 7.6 million in Q2. That was offset in numbers by third-party games, but those don’t tend to be as profitable. Both Microsoft and Sony have acquired gaming studios to boost their Xbox/PS first-party titles, but Microsoft has been more prolific in that regard.
And while PS5 sales were up, PS4 units dropped considerably, down to just 200,000 from a half a million the quarter before. Other factors that Sony mentioned are a “loss resulting from strategic price points for PS5 hardware that were set lower than manufacturing costs.” That means that Sony may have sold the PS5 with minimal or negative profits this quarter as it attempted to navigate around chip shortages. However, in August, the company said it was no longer selling the PS5 at a loss.
Despite the drop in quarterly income, Sony’s gaming division appears to be on pretty solid footing. In its August earnings call, Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki told investors that its PS5 sales target is set higher than the 14.8 million unit sales achieved by the PlayStation 4 in its first year. Based on today’s figures, PS5 sales are closely tracking that trajectory.
The company also said at the time that it had secured enough components for 22.6 million units sold by March 2022. That would be enough to meet its sales projections, but if sales really explode during the holidays, it may not have a lot of margin for error — meaning shortages could continue through next year.
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“The MSI Summit E16 Flip is a decent laptop for content creators, if only it were a bit cheaper.”
Solid build quality
Strong productivity performance
Excellent IPS display with 120Hz refresh rate
Very good keyboard
Battery life is mediocre
I liked the MSI Summit E13 Flip quite a bit, particularly the modern aesthetic, excellent battery life, and solid performance. It proved that MSI can make an excellent productivity-oriented convertible 2-in-1 to go with their popular gaming laptops, even if the price was a bit high.
MSI has a larger version of the machine, the Summit E16 Flip, that not only expands the 16:10 display from 13.4 inches to 16 inches but adds in a discrete GPU by way of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3050. It has a similar look and feel, but is aimed more at creators who can use the extra power a GPU can provide to applications that can use it, like Adobe’s creative suite.
I reviewed the top-end Summit E16 Flip with a Core i7-1195G7 CPU and the RTX 3050 that has a retail price of $2,299. The three available models vary only in their RAM and storage, with the review unit being the top model with 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD. Like with the 13-inch model, the Summit E16 Flip is a bit expensive — but I found enough to like about the machine to justify the investment.
The 2-in-1’s lines are simpler, with a slightly angled edge along the rear of the chassis and a steeply angled keyboard deck. It’s an elegant overall look that’s not overstated, and it’s more striking than the HP Envy x360 15 that also comes in black but has a purposefully minimalistic design. Also, as with the smaller version, MSI notes its use of the Golden Ratio (1.68) in designing the laptop’s dimensions.
The 2-in-1’s display bezels aren’t tiny on the top and bottom, so the Summit E16 Flip’s overall dimensions are somewhat inflated. It’s almost exactly as wide as the Spectre x360 15, but over an inch deeper thanks due the taller display and larger bezels. It’s thinner, though, at 0.67 inches, and a little heavier at 4.4 pounds, compared to the Spectre x360 15 at 0.79 inches and 4.23 pounds. The Summit E16 Flip is also deeper than the Envy x360 15 with its 16:9 display, while again being thinner and slightly heavier compared to the Envy’s 0.72 inches and 4.11 pounds.
Overall, the Summit E16 Flip is a large convertible 2-in-1 but not unexpectedly so, given its large and tall display. You won’t want to hold it in one arm for inking, but that’s typical for larger 2-in-1s.
The Summit E16 Flip is made from CNC-machined aluminum, which fits with its premium nature. Accordingly, the entire chassis is rigid, with no bending in the lid (which the 13-inch model displayed) or flexing in the keyboard deck or chassis bottom. It’s easily the equal of the Spectre x360 15 and ahead of the Envy x360 15, which had some keyboard flex.
The Summit E16 Flip is a very well-built laptop. The hinge opens easily with one hand, which is unusual for convertible 2-in-1s, and it holds the display firmly in its four positions — clamshell, tent, media, and tablet. It also props up the keyboard deck at an angle for a more comfortable typing experience and improved airflow.
Connectivity is a strong suit. There’s a full-size HDMI port and two USB-C with Thunderbolt 4 ports (one of which is used for charging) along the left-hand side, and two USB-A 3.2 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card reader along the right-hand side.
Given the usefulness of this 2-in-1 for creative types, a full-size SD card reader would have been welcome. The latest Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 provide speedy wireless capabilities with the right router.
The Summit E16 Flip uses a 28-watt, 4-core/8-thread Intel Core i7-1195G7, a fast chip but still one meant for thin and light laptops rather than portable powerhouses. That’s contrasted with the 45-watt, 6-core/12-thread Core i7-10750H in the HP Spectre x360 15 and the 8-core/16-thread AMD Ryzen 7 5700U in the HP Envy x360 15.
According to our benchmarks, the Summit E16 Flip’s performance was strong for productivity work but mixed for creative tasks. Note that MSI provides a utility to switch from “balanced” to “performance” modes, and that made a noticeable difference in some of these results but not enough to warrant analysis. Just know that if you need a little bit more power, you can kick the 2-in-1 into overdrive.
The MSI Summit E16 Flip balances CPU and GPU performance very well.
In Geekbench 5, the Summit E16 Flip did well, beating out the Spectre x360 15 in both single- and multi-core tests, but losing in the multi-core test to the blazingly fast AMD Ryzen 7 CPU in the Envy x360 15. In our Handbrake test that converts a 420MB video to H.265, the MSI couldn’t keep up with any of our comparison machines except for the LG Gram 16 that uses a slower Core i7, but it wasn’t much slower than the Spectre x360 15. The same held with Cinebench R23, another CPU-intensive benchmark. In the PCMark Complete test, the Summit E16 Flip did exceptionally well, and its Essentials, Productivity, and Content Creation scores were also good for the CPU class.
One surprising result was in Pugetbench, which uses Adobe Premiere Pro to run through a series of demanding video-editing tasks and can use both the CPU and the GPU to accelerate performance. Here, the Summit E16 Flip had an excellent score of 552, which was significantly higher than all but the Dell XPS 15 (which it beat) and the MSI Creator Z16 (which dominated this benchmark). MSI did an excellent job of balancing the CPU and GPU to perform well on this real-world test.
The Summit E16 Flip may not be the fastest laptop around in the 15- and 16-inch classes, but it’s speedy enough for a convertible 2-in-1. It’s faster overall than the HP Spectre x360 15, and while the HP Spectre x360 16 has been announced with a 35-watt H-series CPU, details are sparse — it might be another solid competitor, but we won’t know until we’ve benchmarked it. In any case, the Summit E16 Flip is a 2-in-1 that will rip through your demanding productivity tasks, but it won’t handle demanding creative workflows that are CPU-intensive.
3DMark Time Spy
Fortnite (1080p Epic)
Civilization VI (1080p Ultra)
MSI Summit E16 Flip (Core i7-1195G7)
1607 / 6096
1589 / 5344
HP Spectre x360 15 (Core i7-10750H)
1237 / 5013
1102 / 5492
HP Envy x360 15 (AMD Ryzen 7 5700U)
1198 / 6790
1258 / 8131
Dell XPS 15 OLED 2021 (Core i7-11800H)
1544 / 7692
1513 / 9979
MSI Creator Z16 (Core i7-11800H)
1540 / 7625
1444 / 9615
59 fps (1200p)
LG Gram 16 (Core i7-1165G7)
1573 / 5454
1394 / 4137
The Summit E16 Flip is equipped with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, an entry-level graphics chip. It scored well in the 3DMark Time Spy test, not too far off the RTX 3050 Ti in the Dell XPS 15 and well ahead of the HP Spectre x360 15’s GTX 1650 Ti. Testing performance in a few popular games, I found the Summit E16 Flip a competent performer at 1080p or 1200p and moderate graphics settings.
Fortnite hit 52 frames per second (fps) at 1200p and epic settings, behind the Spectre x360 15 but ahead of the XPS 15 and competitive with the MSI Creator Z16 (with an RTX 3060). In Civilization VI, the Summit E16 Flip managed 62 fps at 1080p and ultra graphics, slightly ahead of the Spectre x360 15 and behind the XPS 15 and Creator Z16, but not by much. MSI’s 2-in-1 hit 43 fps at 1200p and high graphics, well behind the XPS 15 and Creator Z16, and it fell off from there as resolution and graphics settings increased.
Finally, in Battlefield V, the Summit E16 Flip ran at 49 fps at 1200p and medium graphics, again well behind the XPS 15 and the Creator Z16, but still quite playable. Even at 1600p and ultra graphics, the Summit E16 Flip hit 30 fps.
As long as you’re OK with limiting the graphics quality, you can play modern titles at 1080p or 1200p. It’s not made to be a gaming laptop, but it’s not a bad entry-level machine.
I faulted the Summit E13 Flip for its poor calibration, with colors and gamma that were way off. I noticed that when I was performing my testing and before I pulled out my colorimeter. There were no such issues with the Summit E16 Flip’s display, which seemed very bright, with dynamic and natural colors and deep blacks. And the large, 16-inch display is in the productivity-friendly 16:10 aspect ratio, with a sharp enough QHD+ (2,560 x 1,600) resolution. I enjoyed using the display quite a bit as I ran through my tests.
I wasn’t wrong in my impressions. According to my colorimeter, MSI picked an outstanding IPS panel for the Summit E16 Flip and did a much better job of calibrating it. First, it was very bright at 482 nits, well above our 300-nit threshold. Colors were much wider than the average premium display at 89% of AdobeRGB (most displays are around 72%) and 100% of sRGB (with 95% being close to average).
I discovered quite by accident that the display supports a 120Hz refresh rate.
The colors were also accurate at a Delta E of 1.12 (1.0 or less is considered excellent). The contrast was 1,140:1, above our 1,000:1 threshold. That’s much better than the HP Envy x360 15’s IPS display that came in at 270 nits, 71% of Adobe RGB and 95% of sRGB with an accuracy of 1.06 (slightly better) and a contrast ratio of 900:1. Of course, the HP Spectre x360 15 with its OLED display had even wider colors at 99% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, with an accuracy of 1.21 and an inky-black contrast ratio of 426,180:1.
In an interesting twist, I discovered quite by accident that the display supports 120Hz, even though that’s noted nowhere in the literature I received with the review unit. I was trying to run Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which wouldn’t run correctly, and in the settings I noticed that the game defaulted to the non-native 60Hz.
Lo and behold, I could switch to 120Hz if I wanted. I checked the display settings and there it was, defaulted to 120Hz. I didn’t notice anything before making this discovery, but as I switched back and forth between 60Hz and 120Hz, I noticed that things were a bit smoother. So, that’s another plus for the display that MSI should advertise more prominently.
Overall, the Summit E16 Flip’s display is great for productivity work, with more than wide and accurate enough colors and contrast that made black text pop on white backgrounds. It’s also good enough for creators who might want a slightly wider AdobeRGB gamut, but who could certainly get their work done on this 2-in-1. It’s an excellent display that helps justify the Summit E16 Flip’s higher price.
The audio was surprisingly quiet, even at maximum volume. Mids and highs were clear and pleasant and there was even a touch of bass, but there just wasn’t very much loudness. It’s good audio for bingeing Netflix and such, but you’ll want to do so in a quiet environment. Headphones will be required if you need to drown out any background noise.
Keyboard and touchpad
Like the smaller model, the Summit E16 Flip enjoys an excellent keyboard. It has plenty of spacing and large keycaps, even given the small numeric keyboard tucked in along the right-hand side. The switches offered plenty of travel at 1.5mm, with a light touch and snappy mechanism. My only complaint was that the bottoming action was a little softer than I like, but that’s picking nits. I’d rate this keyboard right up there with the best, including the versions on HP’s Spectre and Dell’s XPS lines.
But I have a bone to pick with MSI. There are acres of space on the palm rest for a huge touchpad — that’s one of the advantages of a taller display. And yet, it built in a tiny wide-format touchpad that leaves almost an inch of empty space above and below.
Dell used up that space with the XPS 15, equipping one of the largest touchpads you’ll find on a Windows machine. The E16 Flip touchpad is fine for what it is, with a smooth surface, reliable support for Windows multitouch gestures thanks to Microsoft Precision Touchpad support, and firm yet quiet buttons. But it’s so tiny.
MSI includes its active pen in the box, and it can be magnetically attached to the Summit E16 Flip’s chassis or lid. It supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity with tilt, and its charges via USB-C. Although the 16-inch 2-in-1 is quite cumbersome in tablet mode, if you place it on a surface and use it for drawing or taking notes, then the pen performs admirably. The touch display was responsive as well.
A fingerprint reader provides windows Hello support on the palm rest. As with most fingerprint readers today, it was fast and reliable. MSI also implemented a couple of ways to shut off the webcam for privacy. You can either hit a button on the keyboard or flip a physical switch to turn off the webcam electronically, leaving nothing for hackers to exploit.
MSI packed in 82 watt-hours of battery into the Summit E16 Flip’s chassis, which is close to the HP Spectre x360 15’s 83 watt-hours and significantly more than the Envy x360 15’s 51 watt-hours. With a large, high-resolution display, I wasn’t expecting spectacular battery life.
What I got was longevity that may or may not make it through a working day, depending on your workload. In our web-browsing test, the Summit E16 Flip lasted for eight hours, which is under the 10 hours we like to see on this test. While the Spectre x360 15 lasted just 6.2 hours with its OLED display, the Envy x360 15 lasted for a more impressive 11 hours. That puts the Summit E16 Flip’s result in perspective.
In our video test that loops a local Full HD Avengers trailer, the Summit E16 Flip made it to 10.75 hours, an OK result, compared to the Spectre x360 15 at just 6.5 hours and the Envy x360 15 at 13.65 hours.
The MSI Summit E16 Flip’s battery life is only mediocre.
I also ran the Summit E16 Flip through the PCMark 10 Applications battery test, where it hit almost 8.5 hours. Again, that’s under the 10 hours we’ve been seeing in this benchmark that best approximates productivity battery life. The Spectre x360 15 was well under at 5.5 hours, and the Envy x360 15 was again much stronger at 12.5 hours. In the PCMark 10 Gaming battery test, the Summit E16 Flip managed 2.25 hours, which is about average. This test seems to measure how hard a laptop works while on battery life rather than reflecting its overall battery life.
Overall, the Summit E16 Flip’s battery life is only mediocre. As I said, it may or may not get you through an entire day’s work, and I suspect it won’t if your workflow is at all heavier than average. Keep your charger with you when you’re on the road.
The MSI Summit E16 Flip is a great-looking and well-built convertible 2-in-1 with an outstanding 16-inch 16:10 display. It’s large and uncomfortable as a tablet, but that’s to be expected with such an expansive display. It performs admirably as a workhorse productivity machine, and it can handle entry-level creative tasks as well. The keyboard is very good, but the touchpad is way too small given the available real estate.
MSI has made one of the better large-format convertible 2-in-1s you can buy. If you’re in the market for a flexible machine that can handle serious work, then the Summit E16 Flip should be on your list.
Are there any alternatives?
The Spectre x360 15, although it’s getting a little long in the tooth, is a solid alternative. Its 45-watt CPU and discrete GPU perform well, and its OLED display is outstanding. You’ll save some money as well.
The new Spectre x360 16 will likely be another good alternative, although its 35-watt CPU probably won’t provide significantly better performance. But you’ll have an OLED display option and a display that’s just as large and expansive. We don’t know much else about the machine, though, including its price.
Finally, if you don’t need a 2-in-1, the Dell XPS 15 is a solid choice. It has even better build quality, an even better display, and its performance is better for creators. You’ll pay similar prices for equal configurations.
How long will it last?
The Summit E16 Flip is solidly built and should last for years of productive service. Its components are modern and up to date, including the fastest Wi-Fi you can get, and it should keep up with Windows 10 — and Windows 11 — for as long as you’ll need it to. The one-year warranty remains disappointing at this price.
Should you buy it?
Yes. You’ll love the way the Summit E16 Flip looks and performs — just be prepared to keep it charged up.
Unlike the other major consoles on the market, Nintendo has worked hard to establish the Switch as a console for all ages. This allows players of all backgrounds to be able to pick up the system and play the games they enjoy most, including kids.
With so many games on the market, it can be difficult to tell which games are best for kids and which to stay away from. Luckily, we have compiled a few of the most popular kids games for the Switch all in one place!
There is no dialogue or story to follow, so you won’t have to worry about your kids not being able to follow the storyline. Additionally, the controls are easy to navigate. Although some of the faster levels can be tricky, kids who start at the easiest levels and speeds then work their way up are sure to feel that sweet success of winning.
Mario Party Superstars
The second of the two Mario Party games to be released on the Switch, Mario Party Superstars is far and away the best choice for kids and adults alike. The game goes back to basics, ditching any of the weird gimmicks some of the later entries tried to experiment with and is once again a classic board game experience. This time the game is built off of the best of the best classic games in the series, meaning everyone can enjoy the best of the N64 titles with a fresh coat of paint and modern functionality.
There are 100 mini-games in this title, all drawn from the best the series has given in the past. Kids won’t know the difference, but older audiences playing with them will enjoy seeing these favorite games back in a new game. The board game style means Mario Party Superstars is perfect for multiplayer fun. And because the mini-games are so simple and quick, there’s essentially no age requirement to roll the dice and have a party!
Untitled Goose Game
Untitled Goose Game was a much-anticipated indie release for Nintendo. House House did a fantastic job of reimagining a much-despised neighborhood bully: The goose. This little town was enjoying a nice day until you, a horrible goose, show up. It’s up to you to make sure that no one enjoys a lovely day. As a goose, you create mischief by taking things villagers want, destroying gardens, and stealing clothes purely for the satisfaction of making everyone around you uncomfortable. It’s a hilarious and easy-to-play game, making it perfect for all ages.
This game has very little to no reading. Because you play as a goose, which can’t understand English anyway, there is little need for words throughout the game. The only time words appear is during the tutorial. After that, players are left to their own devices to explore the world and things they can tear up. While it is a puzzle game — and some are a little tricky — running around and causing chaos is a blast too.
Minecraft is one of the most popular kids’ games because it is solely focused on adventures. You’re encouraged to explore randomly-generated worlds, build phenomenal homes, and delve deep into the world of creation. You’re also able to craft weapons and armor to fend off dangerous mobs while out exploring. The game uses blocky forms and 18-bit graphics to emphasize the importance of imagination and building.
Minecraft is a great kids game because it enhances creativity, problem-solving, self-direction, collaboration, and other life skills. It also complements school skills, such as reading, writing, math, and history. The game lets you import fully reconstructed versions of famous buildings and landmarks in addition to letting you create your own. These tools can be used to help children explore buildings and tour places they may not have a chance to get to.
Yoshi’s Crafted World
There is no cuter dino in the video game world than Yoshi. Nintendo shows us how cute he can really be with Yoshi’s Crafted World, giving us a whole new egg-filled adventure. The Yoshis are living peacefully on Yoshi’s Island, and at the topmost peak sits a gem-set artifact known as the Sundream Stone. The stone has the power to “make anyone’s wildest dreams come true.” Unfortunately, Kamek and Baby Bowser have their eyes set on the stone. While attempting to steal it, the gems are flung across the world. This leaves the sweet Yoshis to work together, find all of the missing gems, and put the Sundream Stone back together to save Yoshi’s Island.
Yoshi gives us a new perspective on everyday objects, such as boxes and paper cups, in this side-scrolling adventure. You are able to flip each level, allowing players to see behind each paper item that was previously passed. You’ll also have the chance to play in co-op mode, adding more Yoshi goodness to your party. The adorable game is perfect for younger players.
Super Mario Odyssey
One of the best games to release for the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey brings us amazing graphics with a new Super Mario game. Princess Peach has been kidnapped (again), and it’s up to Mario to save the princess! This time, Mario is given a new sidekick, Cappy. Cappy can be used to control various characters throughout the world. This gives you access to areas and skills that Mario normally doesn’t have. The game is colorful, fun, and easy to play for gamers of all ages.
Adults who are familiar with Super Mario 64 will feel the nostalgia of the game. The game lends itself to the N64 classic, even giving players the option to dress Mario in an old-school look if they so choose. Super Mario Odyssey is great for new players who want to play games that encourage exploring. The worlds are varied, and each presents its own style of problems to solve.
This game is better suited for older children because the battle system requires a little bit of complex strategy. Players will need to figure out which Pokémon type is best to defeat enemies. Additionally, some reading is required in order to get the full effect of the game. However, that doesn’t mean younger children couldn’t figure it out. Plus, with such adorable creatures, it’s definitely a game that attracts players of all ages.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is full of interesting and engaging puzzles. Unlike other games, in order to help Captain Toad reach each star, you’ll need to rotate the entire level. This gives you different perspectives on where stars and coins are hiding, secret passageways, and hidden items throughout the level. Additionally, you can invite friends to help solve the problems. Up to two players can solve puzzles together. This game is perfect for players who want to improve their problem-solving skills but still enjoy an adorable Mario game.
This colorful and fun game is a delight for players over the age of 9. The game is so full of music and joy that it’s almost hard to believe that a tough time is ahead. There is a multiplayer mode, a single-player story mode, and DLC to keep kids entertained for quite some time.
In order to defeat the Jambastation baddies, you’ll need to recruit different friends to join your battle. By encouraging enemies (and old friends) to fight by your side, you’ll be able to gain more abilities than ever before. Up to four players can join the battle, encouraging teamwork and cooperation between different people. This game is easy enough for young children to learn the controls, so all ages are invited to try it out!
Lego City Undercover
Nintendo holds a vast number of Lego games, but one that stands out is Lego City Undercover. You play as Chase McCain, a police officer who has to go undercover to hunt down the recently escaped Rex Fury. Help end the citywide crime wave from the notorious Fury before it’s too late!
This open-world metropolis game allows up to two players to play together. In co-op mode, friends are encouraged to explore the giant world that includes more than 20 unique districts. You’ll be able to investigate crimes, bust car thieves, discover movie references, collect hundreds of collectibles, and drive vehicles all over the city. It’s a fun game for players of all ages to explore.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Introducing kids to fighting games can be a risk, but with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, there is little need for concern over whether or not this fighting game is too much. This game borrows characters from all over Nintendo’s video game spectrum, letting everyone enjoy playing as their favorite character no matter the series. This fighting game has multiple different ways to play. With team battles, story modes, and challenges throughout the game, this series will let players of all ages enjoy kicking each other across the screen.
For adults worried about video game violence, this isn’t the game to worry about. There’s no gore, no blood, and it’s so cartoony that children are able to separate the game action from reality. The buttons and combos are easy to navigate as well, making this a great game for kids.
Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!
Snipperclips is an adorable game that relies on teamwork. This action-puzzle game encourages players to work together to overcome tricky obstacles. Both silly and fun, this game is a delight for the entire family. The only limit to the puzzle-solving in this game is the players’ imagination.
The game offers different modes to play, allowing up to four players to play together. This game is perfect for kids because it helps encourage their problem-solving and team-building skills. It also has some of the cutest art in a video game.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Taking life slowly is what Animal Crossing: New Horizons is all about. You’ll be invited to an island getaway, where everything is beautiful and life goes by slowly. Unfortunately, what Tom Nook doesn’t tell you is that the island is completely uninhabited. It’s up to you to build this island the way you want. From changing the flows of rivers to finding the perfect placement for your museum, you’re in total control of how you present your island to everyone. It’s a wonderfully relaxing game that encourages players to play at their own pace.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been out for a short time but has already become a hit. This game is perfect for kids over the age of 3. Although younger children may not understand all the concepts or dialogues in the game, they’ll come to appreciate the adorable animal neighbors and the fun, daily tasks the game has to offer. It’s perfect for kids who also have a bit of anxiety, as the pacing of the game is relaxed and intentionally slow for everyone to enjoy.
Read our full Animal Crossing: New Horizons review
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi is just trying to have a vacation. In an attempt to relax, he heads out to a hotel that invited him to come relax. Unfortunately, the invitation wasn’t as well-meaning as it seems. A foe has tricked Luigi and his friends, leaving him to explore a haunted hotel. Every level has a different theme, allowing you to explore different ways to use Luigi’s new Poltergust G-00. Different ghosts need to be approached with different Poltergust attachments, so players will need to watch and navigate how each ghost approached Luigi.
For kids who are showing a little interest in horror, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a great way to go! Although the game itself isn’t scary, there are some aspects to it that can be startling. Luigi’s Mansion 3 also offers different play modes. Up to eight players can work together to gather different artifacts, defeat levels, and catch those pesky ghosts and Boos.
Arms is a fighting game, but each super-powered fighter has spring-like arms. This makes their reach incredible, but also the fights hilarious to watch. Their arms and movements are over-the-top and will bring laughs to the whole family.
Pokémon Sword & Shield
The world of Pokémon is ever-growing and ever-changing, and with the newest installment of Pokémon Sword and Shield, the graphics are finally catching up as well. The game takes place in the new region of Galar. The narrow expanse of land is inspired by Great Britain, lending with notable landmarks in the game corresponding to real-world places such as the Houses of Parliament and Cerne Abbas Giant. This new region also introduces never-before-seen Pokémon. Trainers embark on a completely new journey through the Galar region, fighting and catching new Pokémon, meeting new gym leaders, and enjoying the updated graphics in the game.
Although this game is great for all ages, it is geared toward kids older than 10. The in-game battle system has changed a little, allowing some Pokémon to unleash an ability that is completely new: the Dynamax. This will change how you approach gym battles, meaning players who are better versed in video games will stand a better chance of winning.
Each kit will require assembly, and although that is half the fun, it can be tricky for younger children to follow the instructions. Each kid is different, so be sure to gauge your child’s ability to put these kits together. However, once they are put together, kids can decorate them any way they want.
Is it soccer? Is it a racing game? Who knows! What we do know is that Rocket League is an exciting and fun game for kids over the age of 9. In a similar fashion to soccer, you’ll need to score points against the opposing team by hitting a ball into the opponent’s goal. However, instead of playing as people, you’ll have to do this while navigating a rocket-powered car. This ups the ante in how quickly you have to move to defend your goal against the opposing team.
Rocket League allows for up to eight players to participate in the soccer-esque game. Although a single-player mode is available, having kids play together (with people they know) helps to enhance team building and cooperation. In order to score those sweet points and get that victory, kids will need to work together in their own rocket-fueled car to win.
To successfully start your business and get customers food, you’ll need a team of well-coordinated chefs to work together and get the kitchen moving. Overcooked! 2 is a world of chefs that feels oddly close to reality. You’ll get orders, have dishes, cook, and provide great customer service in order to advance to the next level. But each kitchen is dangerous and different, posing new traps and obstacles for you to get past. Can you serve enough customers in a short period of time to keep your kitchen going?
Overcooked! 2 is an adorable game that encourages teamwork and positivity. It’s hard to keep a kitchen going if someone is being a downer, so keeping everyone upbeat is key to getting your kitchen to function properly. Up to four chefs are allowed in the kitchen, which helps to make kitchen magic work. Kids who love interacting with others and have an interest in cooking will love this puzzle game.
Ring Fit Adventure
Want to see your kids get more exercise, but don’t really live in an area where going outside is an easy option? Look no further than Ring Fit Adventure! Players will be able to traverse grassy plains by jogging in place, attack enemies with overhead shoulder presses, and refill their health meter by striking some yoga poses. The game encourages activity and even uses the Joy-Cons to ensure that every player is moving the way they should be.
This game is perfect for kids who have a lot of energy but no real way to dispense it. In order to keep your character going through the levels, the Ring-Con and Leg Strap accessories track whether or not players are moving in the way the game expects. This ensures that kids are constantly moving and getting the workout they need without even leaving the house.
In StardewValley, you’ve inherited your grandfather’s old farm. With hand-me-down tools, a few coins, and a plot of land in Stardew Valley, you’ll need to start a new life. Raise animals, tend crops, work overgrown fields into lively farms, and so much more in this fun, customizable game. Players will be able to meet different townsfolk and build a completely new farm life from the ground up.
For kids who love building games, Stardew Valley is the perfect addition to their video game library. Learning how to approach the different townsfolk is the key to farming success. This game gives you a chance to live on a farm without actually having to be on one.
Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was the introduction of video games to a lot of adult gamers. Young Link wakes up on a mysterious island away from Hyrule. Animals talk, monsters roam, and a giant egg stands vicariously above the island residents. In order to get an idea of where he is and to rouse the legendary Wind Fish, Link will need to explore Koholint Island and all of its trap-riddled dungeons.
For parents who want kids to understand where their video game history came from, starting with Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is perfect. Not only is the remastered game adorable and beautiful, but each dungeon introduces new problems that require solving. Kids will need to put their critical thinking cap on in order to get past some of the tough dungeons in this game, making it perfect for kids who need to be pushed into thinking about things differently.
Super Mario Maker 2
One of the most creative games on the market is Super Mario Maker 2. You can design your own level of Mario, changing the backgrounds and obstacles as you see fit. You’ll be able to let your imagination run wild with a wide array of tools, course parts, and features. You can team up with friends to play difficult-to-navigate courses or tackle the game’s story mode, which has more than 100 courses that are new to the game. You can also share your courses, play the courses created by other players, and so much more with the online option.
Super Mario Maker 2 is an ideal game for players who love the Mario games and who want to create their own levels. Additionally, any child aspiring to be a video game designer may find this to be the perfect place to try out their skills. You’ll be given more control over how you plan out and play levels than ever before.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
It’s a breath of fresh air to see the Spyro games updated and reimagined onto the systems of today. Spyro Reignited Trilogy gives kids a chance to try out all three original Spyro games in one convenient place. This collection holds the top three Spyro games of the series, Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Kids will have a chance to play as the beloved purple dragon to save the Dragon Kingdom.
This is a classic single-player game with a lot to offer. Since kids won’t be able to have friends help them, this game should be played by kids 10 and up. Otherwise, you face having a younger kid who gets stuck fairly frequently. Will all the collectibles, boss battles, and worlds to engage in, it’s easy for novice players to get lost in the expansive worlds.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is the perfect addition to any aspiring video gamer’s collection. The game takes on the classic Mario side-scroller adventure, but this time players will get to choose from an array of different characters to play as. Each level is difficult, and teamwork is one of the best ways to complete every level.
What’s more, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe offers a few new characters, namely Toadette and Nabbit. While Toadette gives players a chance to play as a female character, Nabbit steals the show for younger players. Nabbit’s ability allows him to run past and through any obstacle, making him the perfect character for players 5 and up.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled
Nothing beats a great racing game, and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is no exception. Although this game came out originally on the PlayStation, the remastered version ups the ante on how Crash Bandicoot was meant to be seen. There are various modes for players to participate in, giving lots of room for kids to decide how they want to see Crash and his friends race. Players can either battle in a stadium or race to the finish line together.
Much like Mario Kart Deluxe, Crash Team Racing is a classic racer for players of all ages. The original controls for the game were easy, and porting it to the Switch has made racing even easier. Players should be ready to duke it out in different ways to get the best of their opponents!
Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics
Video games have also taken the next step in gaming by moving toward tabletop games. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics compiles some of the world’s most popular tabletop games into one place. Kids will have a chance to try out tabletops that they may not have had the chance to get their hands on. It also helps to save money because instead of buying 51 individual tabletop games, parents will only need to buy the one video game.
Kids who love tabletop games or want to try games from other countries will love the opportunity to try Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics. From Majong to Mancala, this game has almost every classic tabletop you can think of.
Pode is an indie game that children will love. The characters, a fallen star named Glo and a helpful rock called Bulder, work together to solve puzzles to reach the end of each level. The fallen star has landed on Earth near an adorably sweet rock. Together, these two work to solve ancient puzzles in an unbelievably beautiful world. The game uses inspiration from Norwegian art and culture to create a co-op puzzle game that’s unlike any other. You’ll be able to travel through mysterious and magical mountains, explore ruins of lost civilizations, and use each character’s abilities to open secret passages up the caves of Mount Fjellheim.
This game is a delight for any child to try out. Although only two players can play, the amount of thought and creativity that goes into the puzzle solving makes the journey worthwhile. It’s an amazing game to play with kids or for kids over 8 to play with one another.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is one of the greatest games Nintendo has to offer. This series definitely does not get the credit it so deserves, although it is difficult to sell other players on the concept. You play as protagonist Phoenix Wright, a greenhorn attorney with a knack for justice. Through a series of events, he gets matched up with long-term apprentice Maya Fey. With her help, you have to solve major crimes around the city. It’s up to you to investigate crime scenes, find evidence, and present to the court why your client is innocent. By pointing out contradictions in witnesses’ testimony, you’re able to save your client from undeserved jail time.
Although the premise is odd, it’s a phenomenal and quirky game that players will enjoy. The 2D graphics make this RPG a must-have. Unfortunately, because of some of the content, we would not recommend this game for kids under 12. The first three games of the series, which Nintendo offers all together, are absolutely worth the time and would be a delight for any kid to play. It encourages critical thinking, attention to detail, and staying positive even during the most difficult of times.
Celeste is a challenging platformer with an awesome heroine. Players help Madeline survive her incredible journey to the top of Celeste Mountain. In the process, she has to survive her inner demons and insecurities. The game is narrative-driven and has a charming cast of characters. This touching story of self-discovery will help kids think about their actions in a more introspective way. The controls for the game are accessible and simple. The hard part of the game isn’t the controls, but rather how well the controls are implemented. With every death, kids can learn a little bit about how the game works and how to properly use each function. Also, respawns happen quickly, so you won’t have to wait through a loading screen to get back in the game.
This game would work best for kids over the age of 10. Because kids will have to master when to use the controls, it can be a little frustrating for younger players to get a handle on how the game works. Additionally, some of the ideas may be too complex for younger kids to understand.
Amazon is offering another solid batch of games to members at no extra cost next month. Remedy’s excellent (which includes both DLC chapters), and are the big-name titles you’ll be able to claim starting November 1st. The lineup also includes Rogue Heroes, Liberated, Puzzle Agent 2, Demon Hunter 2: New Chapter, BAFL – Brakes Are For Losers and Secret Files: Sam Peters.
Meanwhile, Prime Gaming has with Riot to give League of Legends, Legends of Runeterra, Valorant and League of Legends: Wild Rift players some goodies. Over the next 12 months, you can snag esports emotes and Riot Points for League of Legends, weapon skins in Valorant and much more. Prime Gaming will sponsor Riot esports events too, while members can expect some surprises to mark of League of Legends animated series on Netflix.
Along with freebies for those games, Prime subscribers can claim swag for Apex Legends (including a character and weapon skin for the latest legend, Ash), Rainbow Six Siege, Amazon’s own game and other titles in November. You can pick up consumables and in-game currency for Genshin Impact too.
Members still have a few more days to claim the current Prime Gaming perks. Those include , Alien: Isolation and the terrific .
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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds update 14.2 was detailed on Friday, giving those who aren’t on the test servers their first look at what they can expect next month. The patch will bring a few big changes to the game, particularly for players who prefer the new Taego map, including explosive weapons for attacking enemies from a distance.
The PUBG 14.2 patch arrived on the game’s PC test servers last week and is scheduled for release to all players on PC and consoles next month. PC players who aren’t on the test servers will get access to the 14.2 update on November 3, followed around a week later for consoles on November 11.
Players can expect a new mortar weapon in Taego that will spawn in buildings, enabling players to fire rounds a distance of 121m to 700m. All of the maps will get the new M79 Smoke Grenade item, meanwhile, enabling them to take cover in open areas by deploying a cloud of smoke. Even better, the M79 will only take up the Pistol slot in one’s inventory.
Another key change with this update involves the swimming mechanic. Going forward, players who are knocked while in water aren’t guaranteed death; rather, they’ll be able to enter a swimming mode for a chance at getting to shore for revival. The knocked swimming rate is set at half speed and the change doesn’t have any impact on drowning — it’ll only take 10 seconds for the player to drown and be eliminated.
On a more amusing note, PUBG is also getting a new Chicken character in 14.2. The animal will be found in the Taego environment, where it’ll be calm by default, though things like gunshots, footsteps, punching and other sounds may cause it to fly away in fear. Hitting the chicken will kill it.
Players who want to dig into the smaller details can check out the full 14.2 patch notes on the PUBG website now.
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Gamers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to expand their arsenal with this year’s best Black Friday deals. If you’re planning to buy a new gaming headset but you don’t want to wait any longer, you can take advantage of the early Walmart Black Friday deals for an immediate upgrade. These deals include a $30 discount for the Logitech G432 gaming headset, which brings its price down to $50 from its original price of $80.
Logitech is a fixture in Digital Trends’ best gaming headsets, so you know you’ll be getting a high-quality gaming headset if you buy the Logitech G432. It’s a wired headset that’s compatible with the PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch, so you can keep using it if you own more than one gaming platform. The headset also features an upgraded microphone that makes your voice very clear to your teammates, and you can flip the microphone back into the Logitech 432’s body when you’re done playing or when you want to mute it.
The Logitech G432 comes with improved 50mm drivers with DTS: Headphone X 2.0 surround sound for an immersive audio experience, whether you’re engaging in single-player games or playing in online multiplayer modes. You can even personalize the gaming headset through Logitech’s G Hub, a software interface that lets you customize sound profiles, RGB lighting using Lightsync, and G-Key programming.
For a reliable gaming headset, the Logitech G432 is a solid choice. It’s an even more attractive option because it’s $30 off from Walmart, making it even more affordable at just $50, from its original price of $50. It’s unclear how long the deal will last though, so if you’re already looking forward to playing games while wearing the Logitech G432 gaming headset, you should click that Buy Now button while the offer is still available.
Razer’s Kraken Tournament Edition Gaming Headset provides audio realism so that you are fully immersed in your game while the noise-canceling microphone makes for crystal clear communication.
This gaming headset features a built-in microphone for loud communication, and padded earpieces for comfortable gaming sessions. It also comes with an adjustable but durable steel headband.
This gaming headset offers amazing audio, superior mic clarity, and supreme sound isolation, all packed within an aviation-style headset with Razer’s TriForce 50mm drivers.
This gaming headset mimics the colors of the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons, but it’s compatible with the PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. It’s tuned for next-generation gaming, with a comfortable design.
Enjoy custom-tuned HyperX 7.1 surround sound with this gaming headset, which features a durable aluminum frame, the brand’s signature comfort, and a detachable noise-canceling microphone.
This wireless gaming headset comes with 50mm high-density neodymium speaker drivers, premium memory foam earpads, signal range of 60 feet, and an omni-directional microphone,.
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Horror is one of the most popular gaming genres out there today. Scary games are an especially big hit with the streaming generation, who love to watch their favorite content creators freak out. However, we wouldn’t have those countless jump scare reaction videos featuring the Resident Evil 2 remake’s Mr. X without years of fear-filled trial and error. Throughout the past few decades, there have been many trendsetters that built upon innovators of the past. That trend continues even now with games like Resident Evil 7, with its clear P.T. inspiration.
And it all started back in the 1970s.
Come on up to the house
The world of video game horror spans many different subgenres birthed throughout the years. Many see the 1972 title Haunted House for the Magnavox Odyssey as the earliest fear-filled gaming experience — if you even consider a screen overlay a horror game. There were other very early attempts at the genre throughout the ’70s and early ’80s including various text-based games, pixel-filled movie adaptations for the Atari and NES like Friday the 13th and Halloween, and of course, legendary IPs like Castlevania and Ghosts ‘n Goblins. But no game perfectly translated the feeling of a horror movie to the virtual playground until Splatterhouse.
Splatterhouse is a 1988 arcade beat ‘em up that is best described as an ’80s B-horror movie made into a video game. You play as Rick Taylor, a man on the brink of death who partners up with a symbiotic demon mask called the Terror Mask. Together, you slice, bash, and brutalize your way across a giant mansion to save your kidnapped girlfriend who’s to be sacrificed in some ungodly ritual.
The game was the goriest thing many had ever seen, and that gore was its main selling point. It was unheard of, especially in a time before the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Its TurboGrafx-16 port sported a parental advisory warning and a message on the box reading: “The horrifying theme of this game may be inappropriate for young children … and cowards.”
Today, Splatterhouse lives on as a cult classic of the past, the beginning of a classic horror series of games, and one of the forefathers of the horror gaming genre.
Home creep home
While Splatterhouse laid the groundwork for gore and monsters in the world of gaming horror, it was mostly an action game, with the only survival element being to not get hit. The origins of the most famous horror genre, survival horror, can be traced back to the early ’80s with NEC’s PC-6001’s Nostromo, Atari’s Haunted House, and Sinclair Research’s ZX81’s 3D Monster Maze. These three titles introduced the world to a new type of game where things couldn’t be solved with violence, but through passive progression, with an emphasis on solving puzzles and using stealth to make your way past the assailant.
The elements introduced by these titles finally came together on the Nintendo Entertainment System with Capcom’s 1989 game,Sweet Home. This classic JRPG based on a Japanese horror film of the same name presents the player with a party of five filmmakers exploring an old mansion full of ghouls, ghosts, and specters. There’s just one objective: Escape with your life.
To do this, players find items to place in their limited inventory and solve puzzles throughout the mansion while fighting or avoiding creatures of the dark. One wrong play and a party member can permanently bite the dust, leaving one less member to help on the journey out. This game is cited as one of the first to tell a long horror story and does so with diary pages found throughout the game.
Evil is born
If a lot of these details sound familiar, it’s because many of Sweet Home’s features were direct inspiration for what would become the king of horror games, 1996’s Resident Evil, which was originally meant to be a Sweet Home remake for a new generation.
All the glory for inspiring the groundbreaking Resident Evil series can’t be credited to Sweet Home however. There are also EA’s Project Firestart and Infogrames’ Alone in the Dark. These games further fleshed out classic survival horror tropes. Features like full-on storytelling, dynamic music, limited ammo that barely fazes hard-to-kill monsters, pre-rendered backgrounds, and a simple human main character are all here. And no one can forget 1995’s Clock Tower, which introduced the world to Scissorman, as well as more stealth elements in the genre, and pushed the idea of multiple endings, which was also showcased in Sweet Home and 1993’s Splatterhouse 3.
Finally, in 1996 the king took to his throne and Resident Evil hit shelves everywhere, coining the term survival horror. New genre elements were all brought together, with multiple pathways, various endings, a mansion setting, optional character deaths, diary entry-driven stories, puzzles, optional enemy encounters, limited ammo, pre-rendered backgrounds, and so much more being put together into one amazing Jill sandwich.
So with so much taken from other games, what did Resident Evil bring to the genre? The tank control scheme, which has grown to be a horror staple seen in many Resident Evil clones that followed. Those games brought the world into a new age of digital horror — an age that birthed many bold titles of the horror genre and rebirthed others into juggernauts as well.
After Resident Evil, there were titles like Square Enix’s Parasite Eve and the Dreamcast exclusive beat ‘em up/shooter/horror mash-up Blue Stinger. Notable among the various Resident Evil-inspired titles was 1996’s Corpse Party. This indie horror title invited players into the world of psychological fear. The game stepped away from the typical Western B-movie horror that many of these games favored and took an approach more inspired by Japanese film.
This style was taken even further with 1999’s Silent Hill, which put atmosphere before everything, with its strongest asset being its screen-obscuring fog and dark narrative. Its Japanese horror influence brought rise to series like Fatal Frame, another unique horror game that involved taking photos of ghosts.
The Western market took a stab at the horror genre as well. Games like The Thing and Doom gave a new take on fear. Once again, the genre returned to what Splatterhouse brought to the table, as the American entries in the survival-horror genre had a heavy emphasis on action and being able to fight opposing forces head-on. This caught on with Japanese markets as well when Resident Evil 4changed the genre by putting an emphasis on action.
No one could miss Resident Evil 4 and how it was changing the genre when it released. Suddenly, survival horror meant you could gun down creatures as long as your inventory was right. You were no longer helpless. Other titles followed in its bloody footsteps, like 2008’s Alone in the Dark. Many saw the genre becoming less horror and more action until F.E.A.Rand Dead Space released in 2005 and 2008 respectively, showing that cinematic action and true horror could still play together and deliver a scary product.
The following years saw the genre continuing in that action vein until the indie scene started returning the genre to its roots in the 2010s. True survival-horror games like Amnesia, Slender, and Nightfall threw aside action-packed gore and took the John Carpenter Halloween approach by focusing on atmosphere and fear of the mind’s eye. This was also seen with 2014’s Five Nights at Freddy’s, the current lord of indie-horror franchises.
Now we’re back where we started with the Resident Evil series being the star of horror innovation and others following behind. Other subgenres have taken rise throughout the years, such as the multiplayer horror genre as seen in Nightmare on Elm Street, Left 4 Dead, and Back 4 Blood.
Like any genre, horror is always evolving, and I can’t wait to see how developers will find the next way to make us scream.
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Sometimes it’s the obvious things that are overlooked. Why aren’t there pictures of women building robots on the internet? Or if they are there, why can’t we find them when we search? I have spent years decades doing outreach activities, providing STEM opportunities, and doing women in robotics speaker or networking events. So I’ve done a lot of image searches looking for a representative picture. I have scrolled through page after page of search results ranging from useless to downright insulting every single time.
Finally, I counted.
Above: Graph: Image search results via Google showing results of what comes up when the term “woman building robot” is searched.
Image Credit: Andra Keay
My impressions were correct. The majority of the images you find when you look for ‘woman building robot’ are of female robots. This is not what happens if you search for ‘building robot’, or ‘man building robot’. That’s the insulting part, that this misrepresentation and misclassification hasn’t been challenged or fixed. Sophia the robot, or the ScarJo bot, or a sexbot has a much greater impact on the internet than women doing real robotics. What if male roboticists were confronted with pictures of robotic dildos whenever they searched for images of their work?
Above: Example of image results from Andra Keay’s Google search for ‘women building robots’
Image Credit: Andra Keay
The number of women in the robotics industry is hard to gauge. Best estimates are 5% in most locations, perhaps 10% in some areas. It is slowly increasing, but then the robotics industry is also in a period of rapid growth and everyone is struggling to hire. To my mind, the biggest wasted opportunity for a young robotics company growing like Topsy is to depend on the friends of founders network when it leads to homogenous hiring practices. The sooner you incorporate diversity, the easier it will be for you to scale and attract talent.
For a larger robotics company, the biggest wasted opportunity is not fixing retention. Across the board in the tech industry, retention rates for women and underrepresented minorities are much worse than for pale males. That means that you are doing something wrong. Why not seriously address the complaints of the workers who leave you? Otherwise, you’ll never retain diverse hires, no matter how much money you throw at acquiring them.
The money wasted in talent acquisition when you have poor retention should instead be used to improve childcare, or flexible work hours, or support for affinity groups, or to fire the creep that everyone complains about, or restructure so that you increase the number of female and minority managers. The upper echelons are echoing with the absence of diversity.
On the plus side, the number of pictures of girls building robots has definitely increased in the last ten years. As my own children have grown, I’ve seen more and more images showing girls building robots. But with two daughters now leaving college, I’ve had to tell them that robotics is not one of the female-friendly career paths (if any of them are). Unless they are super passionate about it. Medicine, law, or data analytics might be better domains for their talents. As an industry, we can’t afford to lose bright young women. We can’t afford to lose talented older women. We can’t afford to overlook minority hires. The robotics industry is entering exponential growth. Capital is in abundance, market opportunities are in abundance. Talent is scarce.
These days, I’m focused on supporting professional women in the robotics community, industry, or academia. These are women who are doing critical research and building cutting-edge robots. What do solutions look like for them? Our wonderful annual Ada Lovelace Day list hosted on Robohub has increased the awareness of many ‘new’ faces in robotics. But we have been forced to use profile pictures, primarily because that’s what is available. That’s also the tradition for profile pieces about the work that women do in robotics. The focus is on the woman, not the woman building or programming, or testing the robot. That means that the images are not quite right as role models.
Above: Further examples from Andrea Keay’s image search results that better represented females in robotics
Image Credit: Andrea Keay
A real role model shows you the way forward. And that the future is in your hands. The Civil Rights activist Marian Wright Edelman said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Above: A set of images from Andra Keay’s search results displaying the few good images found in the search more accurately representing women working in robotics.
Image Credit: andra keay
So Women in Robotics has launched a photo challenge. Our goal is to see more than 3 images of real women building robots in the top 100 search results. Our stretch goal is to see more images of women building robots than there are of female robots in the top 100 search results! Take great photos following these guidelines, hashtag your images #womeninrobotics #photochallenge #ibuildrobots, and upload them to Wikimedia with a creative commons license so that we can all use them. We’ll share them on the Women in Robotics organization website, too.
Above: Andra Keay’s guidelines for what makes a great, accurate, and realistic photo representing women in robotics.
Image Credit: andra keay
Hey, we’d also love mentions of Women in Robotics in any citable fashion! Wikipedia won’t let us have a page because we don’t have third-party references, and sadly, the mention of our Ada Lovelace Day lists by other organizations have not credited us. We are now an official 501c3 organization, registered in the US, with the mission of supporting women and non-binary people who work in robotics, or who are interested in working in robotics.
Above: Additional details of the women in robotics photo challenge additional example and call for submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image Credit: andra keay
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we can save a forest’s worth of outreach, diversity, and equity work, simply by showing people what women in robotics really do.
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Here’s what Facebook’s metaverse isn’t: It’s not an alternative world to help us escape from our dystopian reality, a la Snow Crash. It won’t require VR or AR glasses (at least, not at first). And, most importantly, it’s not something Facebook wants to keep to itself. Instead, as Mark Zuckerberg described to media ahead of today’s Facebook Connect conference, the company is betting it’ll be the next major computing platform after the rise of smartphones and the mobile web. Facebook is so confident, in fact, Zuckerberg announced that it’s renaming itself to “Meta.”
After spending the last decade becoming obsessed with our phones and tablets — learning to stare down and scroll practically as a reflex — the Facebook founder thinks we’ll be spending more time looking up at the 3D objects floating around us in the digital realm. Or maybe you’ll be following a friend’s avatar as they wander around your living room as a hologram. It’s basically a digital world layered right on top of the real world, or an “embodied internet” as Zuckerberg describes.
Before he got into the weeds for his grand new vision, though, Zuckerberg also preempted criticism about looking into the future now, as the Facebook Papers paint the company as a mismanaged behemoth that constantly prioritizes profit over safety. While acknowledging the seriousness of the issues the company is facing, noting that it’ll continue to focus on solving them with “industry-leading” investments, Zuckerberg said:
“The reality is is that there’s always going to be issues and for some people… they may have the view that there’s never really a great time to focus on the future… From my perspective, I think that we’re here to create things and we believe that we can do this and that technology can make things better. So we think it’s important to to push forward.”
Given the extent to which Facebook, and Zuckerberg in particular, have proven to be untrustworthy stewards of social technology, it’s almost laughable that the company wants us to buy into its future. But, like the rise of photo sharing and group chat apps, Zuckerberg at least has a good sense of what’s coming next. And for all of his talk of turning Facebook into a metaverse company, he’s adamant that he doesn’t want to build a metaverse that’s entirely owned by Facebook. He doesn’t think other companies will either. Like the mobile web, he thinks every major technology company will contribute something towards the metaverse. He’s just hoping to make Facebook a pioneer.
“Instead of looking at a screen, or today, how we look at the Internet, I think in the future you’re going to be in the experiences, and I think that’s just a qualitatively different experience,” Zuckerberg said. It’s not quite virtual reality as we think of it, and it’s not just augmented reality. But ultimately, he sees the metaverse as something that’ll help to deliver more presence for digital social experiences — the sense of being there, instead of just being trapped in a zoom window. And he expects there to be continuity across devices, so you’ll be able to start chatting with friends on your phone and seamlessly join them as a hologram when you slip on AR glasses.
But, of course, the metaverse won’t be built in a day. At Facebook Connect today, the company announced several ways it’s moving towards making it more accessible. For one, Facebook will be transforming the Oculus Quest’s Home interface into “Horizon Home,” a more fully featured environment where you can invite friends and hang out virtually. Eventually, you’ll also be able to build and customize your home space. The Venues app is also becoming “Horizon Venues,” where it’ll continue to serve as Facebook’s prime spot for live virtual events. (The company also says NBA games are coming back to Venues in early November.)
The company is also making a major push for developers: its new Presence Platform offers through APIs that’ll allow devs to make more inventive VR apps. The Insight SDK will let them take advantage of the Quest 2’s cameras to bring the real world into VR; the Interaction SDK opens up the door for more hand-tracking interactions; and the Voice SDK will — you guessed it — let you use your words in more ways.
The Insight SDK, in particular, could reshape what Quest VR experiences could look like. It includes Spatial Anchors, which will let virtual objects persist across sessions in a space. So if you placed a VR pet bunny on your coffee table, it should always be there every time you logged into an app. Additionally, there’s a Scene Understanding feature, which can help developers get a better sense of your physical space. A character talking to you in VR could, for example, wander around your living room without bumping into furniture.
When it comes to augmented reality, Facebook also has plenty of upgrades in store for its Spark AR platform. For one, it’s planning to launch an iOS app called Polar that’ll let people design their own AR effects and objects without any coding. It’s aimed at creators, who could use it to build unique 3D signage or makeup effects that their followers can apply. More experienced devs will also be able to create Geo-anchored objects, which are tied to specific locations in the real world, as well as AR effects that track your hands and body. They can also try out building group video chats for Messenger, something that’ll eventually be supported in other apps.
Like HoloLens and HTC Vive, Facebook plans to make a bigger push into enterprises with Quest for Business. It’s a way for employees to log into Quest 2 headsets with secure work accounts (it’s probably not great for your boss to see how often you’re playing Beat Saber, after all). Since they’re meant for office environments, IT departments will also be able to manage work accounts, specific devices and integrate their own security features. The key is that it’s all going to be accessible on consumer-grade Quest 2 headsets, Facebook won’t have to make entirely new hardware for work environments.