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Dance Dance Re-Evolution!

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This time I want to talk about the revolution of the Dance Dance Revolution games and their sub genres.

DDR was first released in Japan in 1998 and was very popular with players of all ages. Over the years the relationship shared between DDR and video game Arcades have become almost synonymous. When I go to the Arcade I think of really old Neo Geo games, fighters, first person shooters and of course – Dance Dance Revolution.

DDR of course is a game which requires the players to press the buttons under their feet corresponding the direction shown on the screen. This simulates the motion of dancing and following the beat and is a very good game which adds a fantastic album of music, exercise and fast energetic gameplay.

This video shows a person experience DDR.

There’s just too many DDR spin offs for me to count but there is definitely one suitable for anyone. In fact DDR has become such a cultural phenomenon,  Kleinedler’s article discusses how DDR is used to teach teenagers group fitness.

With the advent of better gaming technology, the ways to play dance revolution games has changed as well. Unlike the Arcade version of DDR made almost 20 years ago, some earlier console DDR games uses fold up sensor mats to simulate the feel of playing at the Arcade. The weakness of playing DDR is that the game makes you focus too much on leg movements and doesn’t truly mimic the feel of dancing. But nowadays we don’t even need to use the mat, we simply use motion sensor cameras like Xbox Kinect which captures full body motion. Games like Dance Central and Just Dance are very good examples of new generation of games in the dance genre.

And here’s a video of the Star Wars Kinect dance off game as Darth Vader attempts to seduce you to the dark side with epic dance moves:

The point I’m trying to make here is that these games are a very good source of health fitness. Games like Wii Fit are designed for slow paced workouts but these party games don’t just work but can also be fun at parties or with family.

Maybe next time I’ll talk about music beat games…

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A response to Beer and Joysticks!

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So I was looking at Chris’ article from Beer and Joysticks and it got me thinking.

Has video games really helped me solve a real life problem? I think that’s another interesting thing I can file under this website. I would agree that video games to some extent has helped me solved some really troubling issues with my life and the life of other people too!

So I asked a bunch of friends and other people on Facebook the same question and the response is that video games has helped them relieve issues of stress. A friend of mine, Cameron has claimed that: 

“Mass effect 3 is my go-to game when i’m feeling stressed or just sick of stuff. usually blows up in my face though thanks to those fucking premium spectre packs that never give me what i want”

Another interesting comment I received on this issue was Julian, who said: 

“The Sims 2 was quite a big help in my adolescence. When I moved from an American school back to Malaysia, the initial culture shock meant that I wasn’t very liked or well-received with most of the local and other Asian students. 

Admittedly I had created my Sims 2 neighbourhoods and storylines with customised downloads to better reflect my boarding school around me, but in a way that I can shape its outcome to help me understand my mistakes back in high school (aka why she took offense to me, why he never gave back my camera, etc.). It really did help that Sims 2 had a University Life expansion pack”

There are also other benefits which I will expand on over the next few days but generally video games have been a good source to relieve social and mental pressures. It’s like a form of anti-stress. 

I’m sure some of you remember the game ‘Weapon Closet’ when you were a kid. That game features a variety of weapons which you can plant on to your screen and watch as your 3000 word essay burns into digital smithereens (Thank god I saved a backup!)

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Sometimes being distracted by video games isn’t a bad thing

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I’ve been tackling the issue of health benefits related to video games for over a month now. Admittedly these benefits are pretty broadly covered and common sense amongst avid gamers. Stuff about improving dexterity, hand-eye coordination and exercise are definitely good advantages to playing video games. Parents think about playing video games as a form of luxury or past time for kids who’s got some time to spare outside of school. And they sometimes thinks that this obsession about video games affects their growth. But how about the less fortunate people who need to play video games to be distracted?

Today, I stumbled upon an organisation called, ‘Child’s Play’.

It’s a charity organisation funded by the gaming industry which hopes to improve the lives of sick and ill children in hospitals all across the world. This organisation supplies hospitals with gaming consoles, video games, books and toys to help children. The organisation accepts donations from people and has an online wishlist showing what games these children would want to play.

Discovering this organisation has changed my mindset about health benefits of video games. Being distracted by video games also acts positively to aid mental health. Millions of children across the world struggle against terminal diseases and terrible disabilities everyday, in their eyes video games are a means of escape, to help relieve them of the harsh reality that they face.

Here’s a link to their website:

http://www.childsplaycharity.org/

This is some powerful stuff, especially the testimonial section.

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Analgesia, Another Neurologic Benefit of Video Gaming.

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Analgesia, Another Neurologic Benefit of Video Gaming..

Here’s an interesting article about how video games have been used as pain relief for patients. I’ve been talking a lot about how video games can help improve medical health but this is the first time I’ve seen it used a little differently!

Exergaming and exercising

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Now that I have discussed a bit about the mental health benefits by playing more video games, this I want to change things up a bit and talk about physical benefits.

I read this article about this term called, ‘Exergaming‘ in an article by WebMD’s Wendy Fries (the irony).

In that article she talked about some research in relation to the new generation of motion sensing video games. Motion sensors are becoming more prevalent in the next generation of video games. When we were kids, the only feedback and interaction we have with our Nintendo was the television screen and small buttons on the controller. There are definitely more things to pay attention to when playing games, Playstation, Wii and Xbox controllers all have built in motors that can shake to suggest some kind of linkage between what you see on the screen and the actions partaking in the game.

Now let us take that a bit further. Remember when kid Elijah Wood showed up in Back to the Future 2? Well the one line we all remember him saying was, “You have to use your hands?”, now cut back to the present time, we have the Kinect, Playstation Move and Wii Fit. In these games your body is what substitutes are physical controller.

I always feel these games are subtle messages to gamers. For example playing games like God of War has Kratos doing violent attacks against all sorts of mythological creatures, and not to mention all that escalated walking and running he had to do to get to different areas. Well now YOU have to do all these to make him move, suck it!

So back to Exergaming. So Exergaming is a term to talk about video games that combines physical exercises with physical gameplay. Here’s a diagram that shows the amount of energy you can burn out just by playing these games on your Kinect.

Exergame

Calorie burn/minute

Calorie burn/30 minutes

Golf

3.1

93

Bowling

3.9

117

Baseball

4.5

135

Tennis

5.3

159

Dancing

5.3

159

Boxing

7.2

216

Try it out, burning this amount of calories just for 30 mins is actually pretty good work!

I’ll end it here with a funny video:

How video games can exercise your brain

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So here is a post dedicated to how video games have actually helped boosted mental skills for different age cycles. I’ll also round it up by recommendinga puzzle game which actually works in this category.

Brain games on children

So according to Olson, video games have helped children with brain development.

“When my son was a young adolescent, I watched him play Legend of Zeldagames. He had to search, negotiate, plan, and try different approaches to advance.

Video games don’t have to be labeled “educational” to help children learn to make decisions, use strategies, anticipate consequences and express their personalities.”

Just like a mouse in a maze, video games act as a sort of simple brain exercises that teach children how to make strategic decisions and solve interesting problems. The game she mentioned, ‘Legend of Zelda’ is an award winning fantasy roleplaying video game which combines the best elements of fantasy games with interesting puzzle solving mechanics. The last installment I played in the franchise was a game called Spirit Tracks, where you play as an aspiring hero who travels across the world on a magical train defeating evil creatures in different elemental areas. But to get to these monsters, you have to platform and make your way there by doing life-sized puzzles to get to it.

Children can learn from these games and it teaches valuable application skills which could be used in real life situations.

Source article: http://www.parents.com/kids/development/benefits-of-video-games/

Reduces mental decline in older people

So earlier this year in May a study by University of Iowa shows that video games have the ability to restore mental processing speeds in older people.

“Wolinsky and colleagues separated 681 generally healthy medical patients in Iowa into four groups—each further separated into those 50 to 64 years of age and those over age 65. One group was given computerized crossword puzzles, while three other groups were exposed to a video game called “Road Tour,” (since renamed “Double Decision”), marketed by Posit Science Corp.

The goal, naturally, is to increase the user’s mental speed and agility at identifying the vehicle symbol and picking out the road sign from the constellation of distractors (which are rabbits, by the way).”

I am not very familiar with this game but we can see that the fast paced nature of a variety of puzzle games have the potential to boost mental agility and reaction speeds. This study is actually important because improving mental speeds can actually reduce the effects of natural aging.

“One widely accepted benefit is widening a person’s field of view. “As we get older, our visual field collapses on us,” Wolinsky explains. “We get tunnel vision. It’s a normal functioning of aging. This helps to explain why most accidents happen at intersections because older folks are looking straight ahead and are less aware of peripherals.””

Source article: http://now.uiowa.edu/2013/03/want-slow-mental-decay-play-video-game

Here is a game which is both celebrated by parents and children for mixing really good puzzle challenges with an interesting narrative plot.

The Professor Layton series

Professor Layton is a handheld game which follows Professor Layton in six different stories. Anyone of them are good and basically follows Professor Layton and his trusty student and sidekick Luke as they stumble onto a mystery and now it is your job to find clues and to solve locally designed puzzles which get progressively difficult. The latest game in this franchise is Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney which is a crossover puzzle adventure game that combines the puzzle solving elements in Layton with detective elements from the Ace Attorney series. I am a avid fan of the Ace Attorney saga as it really makes the player think about inconsistencies in ideas and packs a very colorful and elaborate story to engage the player.

If you have any other recommendations for good brain games, please leave a comment here, on Facebook or tweet me up on Twitter!

Top 5 sandbox games for stress relief

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Like the rest of the gaming world out there right now, we’re all probably sitting at home playing Grand Theft Auto V. I know I am…

Despite the widespread criticism about mature content this game has – it certainly is a lot different from the railroading games that’s been around since the beginning.

Now I am not here to say that railroading games are bad, but freedom to do whatever you please in a game is a form of stress relief that has been proven in the past.

A study conducted in 2009’s Annual Review of Cybertherapy and Telemedicine showed that certain video games have the power to make players relax by placing them “in a state of relative mindlessness”. Here’s the link. No wonder there’s so many people playing Bejeweled and Candy Crush these days.

But here’s a hypothetical scenario, you just got off work, it is the middle of the week and you feel like you have a million things to worry about.

Here is my top five sandbox games that I would recommend you play just to relieve some stress

5. Farcry 3

Ever wondered what it is like stranded on a beach resort? Well Farcry 3 is set in a remote island that has a bit of New Zealand and Thailand mixed together. You play as Jason as you travel this island hunting down clues for your missing friends. They have been captured by the local warlord and it is up to you to save them while uncovering the mystical voodoo of tribal natives. The game is solid and has a variety of exciting missions for you to play.

4. Elder Scrolls V Skyrim

Remember those silly swash buckling adventures you have with your friends when you were kids? Well re-live it in this epic tale of dragons and sorcery. The game was made two years ago but still has one of the most beautiful rendered landscape shots I have ever seen. You will not have a care in the world once you have climbed the highest peak in the whole game, bested the desolate lands of untamed wilderness and spent hours in the virtual library reading tales of mysteries and fantasies.

3. Grand Theft Auto

Okay so you have to push this button to do this and then press the menu to buy mor- AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FO DAT! Put the disc in, two to three minute loading screen then ENJOY! Don’t like driving at 200 km/h in your epic customised car? Grab your trusty boomstick and raid a police station (WARNING don’t do that in real life). Any of the recent games will do fine, but if you would love to, try and hunt down the latest product in the franchise.

2. Sims franchise

Make yourself at home, quite literally. The Sims games have always been a fun way to spend a few hours of free time. Customise yourself and your virtual house anyway you like to suit your needs. Make money off your virtual friends which are always around the block to get better resources to further customise your home.

1. Minecraft

Minecraft is basically an advanced game of Lego. Explore a fully randomised world where anything can be designed and created given you have the courage and determination to do so. I will probably write another article about Minecraft but it is definitely a fun way and creative way to spend evenings. Anyone with a decent amount of creativity can turn a barren wasteland into your very own fortified citadel.

Sandbox games are a good way to relieve stress. Fun is obviously a large factor for game developers but some times they take their own lore more serious than the entertainment value for players. An open world where exploration, sightseeing and expansive spaces are elements that make up sandbox games. Instead of seeing games as a catalyst for stress, sometimes we need to chill out and roam free instead of keeping your mind locked in.

For more benefits please check out Gallager’s article: http://theweek.com/article/index/241121/7-health-benefits-of-playing-video-games