Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf is an isometric helicopter shoot ’em up from Electronic Arts. The player is a fighter pilot who must take down mission-critical targets across a number of maps. The player is free to pursue these missions in any order, and must also keep an eye on the fuel, damage, and ammo gauges.
Desert Strike is the first of the prolific Strike series, and was followed with Jungle Strike and Urban Strike on the Genesis. Two more games, Soviet Strike and Nuclear Strike, were released later for 32-bit systems.
A year after the Gulf War, General Ibn Kilbaba takes over a small Arab emirate and plans to start World War III. Using an AH-64 Apache, the player must open the way for ground troops and finally take on the “Madman” himself.
The game is played from an isometric perspective in open levels that allow free movement in all directions by scrolling the screen with the movement of the helicopter. Each level consists of many varying objectives that range anywhere from destroying enemy bases and vehicles to capturing enemy troops or rescuing friendly ones. While bases and vehicles are simply destroyed, both friendly and enemy troops must be taken back to base for extraction. The AH-64 Apache has limited cargo space, so multiple trips to and from the base may be necessary. These objectives aren’t always linear, and can often be tackled in whatever order the player chooses. This combination of free movement and non-linear structure separated Desert Strike from many of the other contemporary shooters.
There are three weapons of varying strength and usefulness available to the AH-64 Apache: machine guns, hydra missiles, and hellfire missiles, which increase in strength respectively. Each of these weapons has a limited number of ammo which can only be replenished by picking up ammo crates on the mission or by resupplying back at the base. Similarly, the AH-64 Apache only has a limited amount of fuel that will drain slowly over the course of each level. If the fuel runs out, the helicopter crashes and the player loses a life. Refueling works exactly the same as restocking ammo.
Lives are lost when either the AH-64 Apache takes too much damage and is destroyed, or when it runs out of fuel. After three lives have been lost, the game is over. Due to the nature of the game’s freedom, each level requires a certain amount of planning and strategy in order to complete all of the objectives while still having enough fuel, ammo, and health to survive.
Due to its popularity on the Sega Genesis in 1992, the game was then ported to the Amiga, Master System, and SNES in the same year. Two years later in 1994, it was released on the PC. It was also ported to most handheld systems such as the Lynx in 1993, Game Gear in 1994, Game Boy in 1995, Game Boy Advance in 2002, and finally the PSP in 2006 as part of EA Replay.
“When we finally did crack that, I was over the moon,” Robinson Swink said. “And then, believe it or not, once the game is complete, there’s still a ton of work to do.”This time around, she hired a PR team to handle marketing and pass out review codes for the launch. Robinson Swink is busy, nowadays, as a senior quest designer at Guerrilla Games, the Dutch studio behind Killzone and Horizon Zero Dawn. In the past four years, she’s made the move from full-time indie development in Arizona to large-scale studio work in the Netherlands, with a stint in California along the way. All the while, she was chipping away at the PS4 version of her game.”I feel like I’ve had to reinvent myself,” Robinson Swink said.”I’ve had to reinvent myself.”After the PC launch of Gravity Ghost, Robinson Swink picked up a job as the creative director of a video-game masters program at UC Santa Cruz. For roughly three years, she mentored students and connected them with the professional marketplace, teaching the tools to succeed in modern studios. One of her student teams built an esports-focused title and ended up securing $1 million in funding.As the end of her contract neared, she reached out to a recruiter who worked with video-game and technology companies to check out her career options.”She basically told me, ‘You’ve been out of development for three years or so. You wait any longer, you’re never gonna get back in,'” Robinson Swink recalled. “I was like, ‘What?!'”So, she started applying (and hired a C++ tutor for a year so she could add that skill to her résumé — students, take note). Guerrilla was high on her list, following the release of Horizon Zero Dawn in 2017.”I decided Horizon was really important to me,” she said. “And I wanted to work on stuff that was important to people, so I decided to apply there.”Robinson Swink won’t say what she’s working on now at Guerrilla, though her past work aligns beautifully with the themes of its most acclaimed title. Not only because Ashly Burch is the voice actor in both Gravity Ghost and Horizon, but because both games handle heavy themes of self-realization and loss in a mature, yet mechanically immersive, way.”With something like Horizon Zero Dawn, there are definitely moments of real joy, and then there are also moments of real, real darkness that hit pretty close to home,” Robinson Swink said. “So, I think, definitely there was that appeal for me. On the surface, Horizon’s an excellent, excellent game without the story. But then they added that, and it added so much to the whole experience, I was just in awe.””I’m just enjoying being part of a team.”When developers leave AAA studios to go indie, they often cite feeling restrained. They’re unable to freely express their ideas at large companies, lost in the machinery of a thousand-person development team and working toward goals set by shareholders, rather than storytellers. Starting an independent studio has historically been viewed as a way out and a path back to video games’ artistic roots.It was the opposite for Robinson Swink. She started out in charge of her own independent studio, building the game she wanted to — and handling everything else that comes with running a successful business. When her current boss, Tim Stobo, recently asked how she was enjoying the jump from indie to large-scale development, she replied, “I’m just enjoying being part of a team and not having to be the one in charge, and not having to make all the decisions. Just being able to focus on the creative part, which is what I’ve always loved the most.”Robinson Swink has been making a living as a game developer for more than 10 years (alongside her husband, Havocado developer Steve Swink). Setting up her new home in the Netherlands, launching Gravity Ghost on PS4, and flexing her creativity at a studio she truly believes in, Robinson Swink feels like she’s made it.”I feel like I’m at the place now that I was hoping to be when I started out chipping away at Indie games,” she said. “My first paying gig in video games was in 2007. I did the art for a point-and-click adventure game called Blackwell Unbound. I made, I think, $600 for doing that. That was only a dozen years ago, and I feel like now, I’ve arrived. It feels really good to know that that hard work all went somewhere.”
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Photo: Basic Fun!Thirty years ago if you offered a kid the choice between playing Super Mario Bros. and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, the plumber would always win. But if asked to choose between studying fractions and playing an educational video game in the school computer lab, who wouldn’t go the Carmen route? It was the first computer game many kids ever played, and that experience can now be replayed anywhere with this handheld recreation of the original version of the game.If the handheld looks vaguely familiar it’s because it’s from the same company responsible for the portable version of The Oregon Trail released last year. Basic Fun! has carried forward that handheld’s styling, which is designed to look like a miniaturized version of the Apple II personal computer, which Apple heavily marketed to schools as an educational tool. Thanks to software companies like Brøderbund and games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, the Apple II was also the first computer many kids ever touched in the ‘80s, so this design continues to be a nice homage.In lieu of a full QWERTY keyboard, the handheld version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, which will be available sometime this fall for $25, relies on just four buttons as well as a four-way directional pad with an awkwardly square design. But it’s not like this is a game with intense action sequences that requires lightning-quick reflexes and responsive controls; there’s a lot of reading, and a lot of selecting from various menus, and that’s about it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. Playing endless rounds of Candy Crush on your subway ride to and from work isn’t doing much to stimulate your brain, but while zig-zagging the globe and hunting for Carmen you’re going to learn a thing or two in the process. It might not be the most exciting video game from your childhood, but even today it’s still a better alternative to schoolwork or real work.
Yankees 14, Twins 12 | 10 inningsImageAaron Hicks of the Yankees made a catch to remember.CreditCreditHannah Foslien/Getty ImagesMINNEAPOLIS — Aaron Hicks made the biggest catch of the Yankees’ season — a full-extension diving grab at the warning track with the tying and winning runs on base Tuesday night — in one of baseball’s most exhilarating games of the season.Hicks’s jaw-dropping play ended a heavyweight battle between the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins, two of the best teams in the major leagues. Two high-powered offenses landed blow after blow against the opposing pitching staffs, and then kept punching.Every out felt like an enormous task. Every base runner added more chaos. There were five lead changes, 26 runs and four blown saves.Then, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning, the Twins’ power-hitting center fielder, Max Kepler, laced a 97-mile-an-hour fastball from Chad Green deep into the left-center-field gap.But Hicks galloped back, dived to his left, caught the ball with his outstretched left hand and slammed face-first onto the warning track.“That was a do-or-die play,” Hicks said. “That was the play that needed to be made in order for the game to end.”With most people watching stunned by the spectacular end to such a rollicking game, Hicks hopped to his knees, pumped his arms and yelled. In the Yankees’ high-five line, Hicks — his jersey smudged with dirt and the bill of his cap deformed — flipped the ball to Green. The Yankees had prevailed, 14-12, in a five-hour thriller against a fellow American League division leader in which they had trailed by six runs.“What an amazing play to end an amazing game,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said after the game ended early Wednesday morning.It capped what many called the best game of the baseball season so far. During the ninth inning, John Sterling, the longtime radio voice of the Yankees, said on the air, “I have proclaimed this the greatest game of the year.” David Cone, the pitcher turned broadcaster, said on the television broadcast that the game needed a Xanax.When Hicks popped up after his game-sealing catch, the Yankees had secured their major league-leading 32nd comeback win of what has been a magical season.There was a long list of big contributors for the Yankees: Didi Gregorius willed his team back into the game and joined the likes of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio in becoming the fifth Yankee to go 5-for-5 with seven runs batted in. Left fielder Mike Tauchman drew a crucial walk in the ninth inning to set the stage for Hicks’s go-ahead two-run home run off Twins closer Taylor Rogers, who entered the game with a 1.93 E.R.A. and had the Yankees down to their last out. Gleyber Torres ripped a run-scoring single in the top of the 10th inning that put the Yankees ahead for good.ImageThe Yankees showered Hicks with ice after his game-saving catch.CreditHannah Foslien/Getty Images“It’s something about our team: We never give up,” Gregorius said.If Tuesday was a potential preview of an October matchup, what a series it would be. Parts of Tuesday night weren’t pretty: Each team allowed a five-run inning; the starting pitchers, the Twins’ Kyle Gibson and the Yankees’ Domingo German, each coughed up at least five runs; 12 relief pitchers were needed, and 14 walks were issued, including three each by the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman and Adam Ottavino. An inconsistent strike zone didn’t help, either.In a seesawing eighth inning in which the Yankees scored five runs, catcher Gary Sanchez pulled up limp after stepping on first base trying to beat out a ground ball. He soon exited the game with a left groin injury, and he was placed on the injured list before Wednesday’s game. Kyle Higashioka was called up from Class AAA to back up catcher Austin Romine.Relief pitchers Zack Britton and Chapman blew leads in the eighth and ninth innings. Ottavino and Green nearly did the same in the 10th. The Twins showed the Yankees why they are on a pace to smash several home run records this season, clobbering four more, including Miguel Sano’s second home run of the night, a second-deck, two-run blast off Britton in the bottom of the eighth that gave Minnesota an 11-10 lead.All of this madness, however, created the white-knuckled tension that made the game unforgettable.“That’s one of those games, for being late July, we’ll probably be talking about for a long time,” Boone said.“Even though it’s still July, it’s a postseason game right there,” said right fielder Aaron Judge, adding later about the Twins, “We’ll see them again down the road, for sure.”After Sano put the Twins ahead in the eighth, Hicks did the same for the Yankees in the top of the ninth with two outs. But in the bottom half of the inning, Chapman walked the first three batters he faced and blew his third save this month by allowing a game-tying sacrifice fly to Jorge Polanco. Boone stuck with Chapman despite his inability to throw strikes, and Chapman eventually completed the inning.The Yankees took a 14-12 lead in the 10th when their offense outlasted the Twins’ bullpen, perhaps Minnesota’s biggest weakness. Gregorius, Austin Romine and Torres singled. Romine later scored on a wild pitch to give the Yankees a two-run lead that didn’t feel safe.Tasked with a save situation, Ottavino notched two outs but loaded the bases with three walks. So in came Green to face Kepler. Hicks said he could see Romine set up outside and had a hunch that Kepler, a left-handed hitter, was going to spray the ball into the gap. Hicks, whom the Yankees acquired in a trade with the Twins in 2015, ran the fastest he has all season for an out and covered 74 feet, according to Statcast.“Just amazing,” Judge said. “Not only the catch and getting over in the gap like that, but also the situation: game on the line, a great hitter up at the plate, and for him to go out there and have a great read. Right off the bat, I knew he was going to catch it.”Hicks said he knew he had gotten both a good read and a good jump on the ball. He was all smiles after saving the most dramatic victory of the season. After the game, Boone joked that Hicks emerged unscathed from his tumbling catch once he took off his cape.On the mound after the play, the normally restrained Green lifted his arms in the air, and his face showed disbelief.“One of the crazier games I’ve been a part of,” he said, “and Hicks made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.”A version of this article appears in print on , Section B, Page 10 of the New York edition with the headline: An Instant Classic Good to the Last Flop. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
“You don’t need to change votes to cause chaos,” Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) says.Andrew Harnik/APOne week after Robert Mueller’s testimony shined a spotlight, once again, on election interference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling the heat. The leader turned heads on the Senate floor Monday as he rose to decry critics who have dubbed him “a Russian asset” and “Moscow Mitch” for stonewalling congressional measures to improve election security. And with momentum building in the House to formally start impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the pressure is unlikely to let up anytime soon.Focusing on election interference from 2016 is backwards thinking, though, at least according to Virginia Senator Mark Warner. With 2020 just around the corner, he tells WIRED—in an exclusive interview—that the upcoming election is where both parties need to direct their attention right now.As the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has long been a vocal proponent of new legislation to strengthen election protections, such as the Honest Ad Act, which would compel Silicon Valley firms to disclose when political ads are paid for by a foreign nation. He’s also behind a bill that would require campaigns to alert federal officials if they’re approached by a foreign operative offering information or other assistance. Both bills have bipartisan support—Senator Susan Collins became the first Republican to cosponsor the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act earlier this week.Even as GOP leaders try to position election security as a partisan issue, Warner—a former governor of Virginia and a cofounder of the firm that eventually became Nextel—has maintained the respect of his colleagues across the aisle. But his frustration seems to be growing, especially now that Trump has tapped Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to be his next director of national intelligence. Unlike Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has already come out opposed to Ratcliffe, Warner tells WIRED he’s still got some patience left. Even if it’s wearing thin.This transcript is slightly edited for length and clarity.WIRED: After Mueller testified, the president and Republicans say case closed. What do you make of that?Mark Warner: I’m not here to relitigate 2016, or the Mueller testimony, specifically. I would point out, out of the Mueller investigation: 37 indictments, the president’s national security adviser pled guilty. The president’s campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s deputy campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s chief political adviser is coming to trial in the fall, Roger Stone. The attorney general had to resign. There were literally hundreds of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.That’s not normal. And I think the biggest takeaway from the Mueller testimony was that the Russians who attacked us in 2016 are still attacking us and, in Bob Mueller’s words, on a daily basis. You combine that with the warnings from Trump’s own FBI director [Christopher Wray] and Trump’s own director of national intelligence [Dan Coats]. And one of the things that concerns me the greatest is that we’ve not done more to protect the integrity of our election system in 2020.I was just talking to your [Intelligence Committee] cochair, Senator [Richard] Burr, and he was saying the states in 2018 weathered these attacks, the national infrastructure is good on election security. Basically, case closed, again, not much more is needed.I think everyone picked up their game in 2018, including the Department of Homeland Security, and our intelligence community was more active as well. But the intelligence community’s own reporting was that Russia didn’t throw its full force of efforts in 2018. Chances are they’ll reserve those for the presidential election. So I think there is some low-hanging fruit that would get 75 votes on the floor of the Senate—if we could get these bills to the floor of the Senate.”If you add up all Russia spent in the Brexit vote, the French presidential elections, and the 2016 American elections, it’s less than the cost of one new F-35 airplane.”Senator Mark WarnerI think there ought to be an affirmative obligation that if a foreign government, the Kremlin, offers you campaign help, your obligation ought to be not to say thank you, but to report to the FBI. I think we ought to make sure that every polling station in America has a paper ballot backup, so that if a machine was hacked, you’ve still got ability to protect the integrity of the voting system. And I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t think we need some basic guard rails around the manipulation of Facebook, Twitter, and Google by foreign entities and others. So at least there ought to be the requirement that if somebody advertises on a political basis on Facebook, but in truth it’s a foreign government, they ought to have the same disclosure requirements as somebody who advertises on radio or television.Isn’t it a little bit ironic that in this highly digital era, we’re going back to paper ballots?I think we need to make sure that we use the best technology, but if technology, as we see from banks this week, can continue to be hacked into, if voting machines are not as protected as needed, if the private companies who control the voter files could have their information moved around … You don’t need to change votes to cause chaos. I think people’s overall confidence in the system goes up if there is that back check of having a paper ballot backup. Again, this is not saying we wouldn’t still use voting machines, but across the election community everyone believes it’s safer if you have that paper ballot backup that goes along with the voting counting machines.And now we know we’re getting attacked, cybersecurity is on the top of many minds. And then the president this week announced he’s nominating Representative John Ratcliffe to be DNI, who seems like more of a politician and a Trump supporter than someone from the intel community. Does that worry you?It worries me greatly. The irony is that Donald Trump’s appointees in the intel world—his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; his director of the FBI, Chris Wray, his director of the CIA, Gina Haspel—have been pretty good about speaking truth to power, even when Trump did not want to hear the truth. They’ve been very good at not allowing America’s intelligence to get politicized—while I’m going to give Mr. Ratcliffe the courtesy of a meeting, I fear that he is being appointed in the mold of a Bill Barr, the attorney general, who basically is simply a loyalist first to Donald Trump and doesn’t maintain that kind of independence.If there’s ever been a time when everyone says that Russians and others will be back, when we’ve got as many potential conflict spots around the world, we need to make sure that the head of our national intelligence is not going to politicize the intelligence. That intelligence product goes to our military, it goes to the executive, it goes to us in the Congress. It cannot be a political product. And we’ve got to make sure that the intelligence community is going to be willing to speak truth to power, and that means telling Donald Trump the truth, even if he doesn’t want to hear it. And so far it appears to me that Mr. Ratcliffe, who doesn’t have much experience and who seems—based upon press reports—that his audition was based on questioning Mueller and questioning the legitimacy of the Russian’s intervention in our electoral system, is pretty chilling.What do you see as the biggest threats—or are there any new threats—facing America in 2020?So I think there are a couple of new threats. One, Russia in 2016 was surprised at how vulnerable our systems were, our electoral systems. And how easy Facebook and Twitter and YouTube were to be manipulated. So I think that playbook is now out there, they’ve used the same tactics in the Brexit vote [and] the French presidential elections. So my fear is we may not only see Russia, we can see Iran, we could potentially see China, who has a great deal of control over a number of their Chinese tech companies, start to use these tools because they’re cheap and effective. I like to point out that if you add up all Russia spent in the Brexit vote, the French presidential elections, and the 2016 American elections, it’s less than the cost of one new F-35 airplane. So Russia and our adversaries, I think, have decided the way to engage with us in conflict is not through straight up old-school military but through cyber activities, misinformation and disinformation, increasingly trying to weaken and interfere, for example with our space communications, and I think Russia will up their game … and others … [It] means there will be more adversaries in 2020.Second is, I think in 2016 we saw Russia try to misrepresent—the Russian agents misrepresent themselves as Americans on Facebook and Twitter by simply posting fake messages. The next iteration, the next generation of that will be the so-called “deepfake” technology, where an American may not be able to view what his eyes are telling him, because you’ll see an image of you or me or a political figure that may sound like that person but isn’t that person at all.Now, if McConnell doesn’t allow some of these bills, like the Honest Ads Act or just broader election security bills, to come up, what do you think the Silicon Valley tech firms can do on their own?Look, we’ve seen progress made by Facebook, Twitter, some progress made by Google. But I don’t think self-regulation, particularly when a regulation may mean they may not be collecting as much information as they like, or self-regulation may mean they have to go against or limit some of the fake content. It goes against their very business model. So I think Facebook has made progress in particular, but some of the tools they have—for example, the ability to access on an easy basis the campaign ads that they promised, that tool is not effective at all.So at the end of the day, when we’re talking about something as critical as protecting the integrity of our democracy, when Americans lack faith in so many of our institutions to start with, if we don’t go the extra mile and put in place a set of rules and regulations—and god forbid should Russia or Iran or another foreign enterprise massively interfere again—and we didn’t do our duty, then shame on all of us.This week, two fairly senior Senate Democrats called for impeachment proceedings to begin. Where are you on that? We started this conversation with you saying you don’t want to relitigate 2016, but it seems like there’s this growing chorus amongst Democrats to impeach.I actually think Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi has navigated that challenge very well. I understand the frustrations with President Trump—his activities and tweets and antics. I think, though, the best way we can show that that’s not who we are as Americans is to defeat him at the ballot box in a free and fair election. And what I worry about is if we don’t guarantee that free and fair election, then we haven’t done our job.More Great WIRED StoriesHigh drama: A cannabis biotech firm roils small growersLunar mysteries that science still needs to solveAre super automatic espresso machines worth it?The best algorithms don’t recognize black faces equallyThese hackers made an app that kills to prove a point🏃🏽♀️ Want the best tools to get healthy? Check out our Gear team’s picks for the best fitness trackers, running gear (including shoes and socks), and best headphones.📩 Get even more of our inside scoops with our weekly Backchannel newsletter
Since Game of Thrones ended in May, HBO’s streaming rivals have been racing to capture their share of the viewers who still crave shows packed with fantasy spectacle, intrigue, and sex. Amazon seems especially focused on winning over genre fans: its Prime Video service is currently spinning up an epic-fantasy lineup that promises series based on The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time. It’s starting its run with the original show Carnival Row, which will release its first eight-episode season on August 30th. It’s a gorgeous, well-written, and unrepentantly political series, but it’s at its absolute worst when the writers try too hard to make it feel like Game of Thrones.
Carnival Row is set in a world that resembles what the 1800s might have looked like if the great European powers established colonies and fought proxy wars in the realms of the fae rather than in India or Africa. Six years before the series starts, British Empire stand-in The Burge retreated from the fae nation of Tirnanoc, leaving it in control of The Pact, a group inspired by the World War I Central Powers. The defeat caused a refugee crisis, with desperate fae fleeing to The Burge where they’re largely resigned to a life of menial labor and discrimination.
The story primarily follows Burge investigator Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom of The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises) and fresh-off-the-boat faerie Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne of Suicide Squad). The two met and fell in love during the war, bonding by sharing a copy of Philo’s favorite scientific-romance novel, and both were left deeply damaged by their parting. A romance novel also sparks an impossible relationship between two soldiers in Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga comic book series, but while the concept isn’t original, Bloom and Delevingne’s powerful performances bring life to the haunted, soulful Philo and fierce but brittle Vignette.
During their courtship, Vignette and Philo discuss the transcendent power of stories in a way that’s reminiscent of Tyrion’s awful electioneering monologue in the final episode of Game of Thrones. But the metatext feels earned here because of the nuanced work series creators René Echevarria (The 4400) and Travis Beacham (the writer of the original script Carnival Row is based on) are doing to explore empathy and discrimination. Carnival Row avoids simplistic narratives where the persecuted fae are good, racists are bad, and the best path for everyone is liberal inclusivity. Instead, they delve into the systemic problems that trap people in bad circumstances and the intense difficulty of enacting change.
Photo by Jan Thijs / Amazon Prime Studios
The racial narrative weaves throughout the show as Philo investigates a series of murders of fae that his superiors would rather just ignore. Burge Chancellor Absalom Breakspear (Jared Harris of Chernobyl and The Expanse) argues that his country must accept refugees because they’re culpable in creating the fae’s plight. But even he uses the show’s colorful collection of racial slurs and seems to have a hard time telling his fae bodyguards apart. Other politicians use the same rhetoric as Donald Trump or Boris Johnson to argue that the new arrivals are taking jobs from citizens and changing the character of the country. The Burge is largely dominated by Caucasians, but it has some people of color in its elite ranks; at one point, Parliament member Sophie Longerbane (Caroline Ford) invokes her own dark complexion and asks whether discrimination against the fae will eventually be seen as the same as that against other humans. In a twist, she concludes that it won’t because the fae “are nothing like us” and deserve their second-class status.
Carnival Row also doesn’t simplify its setting by making discrimination against the fae the world’s only social problem. Women still have little power in this world, and homosexuality is a crime. While the fae are mostly used as a metaphor for refugees and racial discrimination, there’s also an undertone of queerness led by the casting of Delevingne, who is bisexual and genderfluid, playing a bisexual faerie. That subtext is brought home by a subplot involving a gay doctor who secretly performs abortions and operations to help the half-blood children of humans and fae pass as human.
But the best version of Carnival Row’s exploration of discrimination involves a plot that effectively combines Pride and Prejudice and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. When socialite Imogen Spurnrose (Tamzin Merchant) learns that the biggest house in town has been purchased, she plots to catch the new owner’s eye. When the buyer turns out to be a fae named Agreus (David Gyasi), she hatches a Jane Austen-esque plot to save her family from financial ruin by having him pay her to ingratiate him into The Burge’s high society.
Photo by Jan Thijs / Amazon Prime Studios
That’s a particularly difficult task since Agreus is equally blunt with bigots who view his arrival with disgust and with condescending liberals who want to hear about the homeland he was happy to leave behind. He’s a toughened pragmatist who’s made his fortune in part by helping humans oppress his own people, and he has little patience or sympathy for fae who are trapped in worse circumstances. His plot has almost nothing to do with the main storyline, but the dynamic between him and Imogen, who grows from one of the show’s most hateful characters to one of its strongest, is so compelling that their scenes stand out even as the rest of the show descends into murder, magic, and mayhem.
It’s also one of the few plots that comes to a satisfying conclusion by the end of season 1. While Philo’s intrigue-heavy investigation starts strong and involves some genuinely surprising twists, it fails to stick the landing as it ends up tangled in the show’s mediocre political drama. Both Sophie and Absalom’s wife, Piety (Indira Varma of Game of Thrones and Rome), are meant to be masters of manipulation, but they just come across as pale imitations of Littlefinger and Cersei Lannister, respectively. Their schemes involve a battle for control over Piety and Absalom’s slacker son Jonah (Arty Froushan) who is easily the show’s blandest character. Both he and Sophie are thrust into increased prominence in the season finale, which could make them an even bigger drag on the show’s already-announced second season.
But even when the story lags, the visuals never do. Shot in the Czech Republic, the show is filled with wonder-inspiring setpieces like chase scenes along the roofs of The Burge, battles between men and mythical creatures in the snowy mountains of Tirnanoc, and assaults by the scythe-like zeppelins of The Pact. The costumes and makeup are stunning, giving depth to the portrayals of the fae with touches like different styles of horns and the scarification that marks faerie priestesses and mystics.
There’s plenty of sex in Carnival Row, often made more spectacular through glowing wings faeries can use to take their intimacy to new heights, but there’s none of Game of Thrones’ notorious sexposition. Instead, Carnival Row’s writers trust viewers to keep up with their world-building, regularly dropping terms like “Haruspex” and “mimasery” with almost no explanation beyond the immediate context. That tactic avoids clunky exposition that can bog down genre works, and it also makes the world feel mysterious and largely unexplored, even after eight episodes. It’s a clever technique that could keep viewers engrossed in Carnival Row’s mysteries for seasons to come and hopefully give the writers the freedom to continue forging their original identity.
Carnival Row launches on Amazon Prime Video on August 30th.
Students normally get $100 off of Apple’s latest 13-inch MacBook Pro. But even if you’re not a student, you’re in luck. Apple’s latest 13-inch MacBook Pro is currently $1,199, $100 off of its normal $1,299 price, on Amazon. This is the first price drop on the 2019 version, which has the Touch Bar by default as well as a True Tone display that can adjust the screen’s backlight to match the ambient lighting in the room. It also comes standard with an Intel Core i5 quad-core processor, so it’s more powerful than the MacBook Air, in case you were deciding between the two.
If you are a student, the parent of a student, or school faculty, I recommend purchasing through Apple instead. You’ll get the same deal, plus Apple is throwing in a set of Beats headphones as part of its back-to-school promotion.
Photo by James Bareham / The Verge
Today is the last day that Nintendo Switch Online subscribers can get game vouchers. These vouchers come in packs of two for $99.99, saving you $20 after you redeem them both. The selection of Nintendo Switch titles looped into the promotion is impressive, so it’s worth taking advantage of this deal if you plan to pick up a few games.
If you aren’t a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber, you can easily sign up for the service in the eShop on your Switch or through a digital key provided when you purchase through Amazon. Buying the vouchers today will give you a year to use them, so if nothing strikes your fancy right now, you have up to next July. For example, by that time, Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be available, if that’s a game you’re interested in.
Speaking of Nintendo Switch, Woot is selling the console for $274.99, which is $25 off of its original price. It’s a small discount, but these are new consoles, so it’s worth checking this out if you’re in the market for one. Compared to the Nintendo Switch Lite, which recently entered its preorder phase, this model can connect to your TV so you can enjoy some couch-side gaming.
Here are a couple of other deals that you should know about:
V-Moda BassFit wireless in-ear headphones are $99.99 (usually $129.99) until August 27th on Amazon. These are made for fitness, and they’re resistant to sweat and water. V-Moda claims up to 11 hours of battery life.
A 10-pack of AmazonBasics USB 3.1 Gen 1 to USB-C dongles is $29.90. Ten dongles might seem like overkill, but it’s a worthy investment if you have a 2018 iPad Pro or a MacBook Pro with USB-C ports (such as the deal highlighted at the top of this post). These get good reviews on Amazon, so it makes sense to hop on this deal instead of opting for a more expensive alternative.
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Taking football back to the streets.
Image: EA Sports
By Joseph GreenMashable Deals2019-08-09 08:42:56 UTC
TL;DR: Pre-order FIFA 20 (PC) for just £24.99 on GAME, after saving £15 from Quidco via cashback.
You probably know this already, but the release date for FIFA 20 is Sept. 27. It’s one of the biggest days in the gaming calendar, and one that a lot of you will probably be relishing.
Knowing the release date is one thing, but that doesn’t make it come around any sooner, and late September feels like an eternity away. There’s only one thing you can do to make the wait more bearable, and that’s to pre-order a copy.
Pre-orders of FIFA 20 are now available from a number of retailers. There are great deals across the board, but Quidco and GAME are offering the best. If you sign up to Quidco and visit the GAME store to pre-order FIFA 20, you’ll receive £15 cashback when your purchase is confirmed, through PayPal, bank transfer, or as gift vouchers.
This means you can pre-order a PC version of the game for just £24.99 after cashback. Prices for PS4 and Xbox One versions start at £49.99, so the Quidco promotion would take the price down to £34.99. It’s as simple as that.
Get the best FIFA 20 pre-order deal with Quidco and GAME.
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The best ‘FIFA 20’ pre-order deal in the UK.
Image: fifa 20
By Joseph GreenMashable Deals2019-08-04 07:00:00 UTC
TL;DR: Pre-order the action-packed FIFA 20 for just £34.99 on GAME, after saving £15 from Quidco via cashback.
Circle Sept. 27 in your calendars, because that is the release date for FIFA 20. It’s an important day, so maybe get the red Sharpie out for this one. You could even circle it a few times, just for good measure.
You can now pre-order FIFA 20, to make sure that you are one of the first to play the new game. The worry that a lot of people have with pre-ordering is that you might miss out on a better deal further down the line. You don’t need to worry about that though, because we have lined up an incredible deal, just for you.
If you sign up to Quidco and visit the GAME store to pre-order FIFA 20, you’ll receive £15 cashback when your purchase is confirmed. You can then withdraw your cashback to your PayPal, bank, or as gift vouchers. So what does that mean when it comes to the total cost?
FIFA 20 pre-order prices start at £39.99 from GAME, for a PC version. So if you take away the Quidco cashback, you can get your hands on the game for just £24.99. Prices for PS4 and Xbox One versions start at £49.99, so the Quidco promotion would take the price down to £34.99. If you want to pick up the Champions Edition, the price drops from £79.99 to just £64.99. You get the idea.
Get the best FIFA 20 pre-order deal around, with a little help from Quidco.
Benioff and Weiss at the premiere of some fantasy show.
Image: Taylor Hill / Getty Images
By Caitlin Welsh2019-08-08 00:19:13 UTC
Game of Thrones creators and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been lured to Netflix, with an exclusive deal rumoured to run to nine figures.
The pair will write, produce and direct new shows and movies for the streaming giant, according to Deadline. They’d reportedly met with basically every big name in the business, including Disney, Amazon, Comcast, Apple, and their former home of HBO/WarnerMedia.
“They are a creative force and have delighted audiences worldwide with their epic storytelling,” Netflix’s Ted Sarandos told Deadline. “We can’t wait to see what their imaginations will bring to our members.”
While other irons in the fire include a Kurt Cobain project for Universal and Fox-Disney’s Dirty White Boys, there’s no word on what form(s) the Netflix content might take, whether they’ll focus on totally original stories or more adaptations, or even when we’ll know what’s in the works.
The Davids, as they’re called by GoT fan communities, already have a couple of projects with Disney, including creating their own Star Wars trilogy. That announcement came in the midst of Thrones’ final season, and the accompanying controversy over whether the duo had, fairly literally, lost the plot. (That season also scored a record-breaking 32 Emmy nominations, despite the disgruntled fandom.)
So, uh, no pressure, fellas.
Specifically, Noble Team Spartans Emile-A239 and Kat-B320 will join Gears 5’s Horde mode when the game launches on September 10th. The two superhuman warriors will be available as part of the Halo: Reach character pack, which comes included with all Gears 5 Ultimate Edition purchases ($79.99) on Xbox One and PC. The character pack is also available to those who download the game through Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription service. As an added bonus, Game Pass Ultimate holders get to try the game (and character pack) on September 6th, instead of the 10th.Besides Emile and Kat, the character pack includes a variety of Noble Team-themed cosmetics, including a skin for Gears 5’s Jack robot. Each character comes with their own ultimate ability, which they can use in the game’s Horde mode to aid their allies.On the surface, now seems a strange time to revisit a game that’s almost a decade old. However, the crossover is likely part of a renewed marketing push Microsoft plans in support of The Master Chief Collection. In March, the company announced it plans to re-release the title, which bundles together remastered versions of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST and Halo 4, on PC, as well as update it to include Halo: Reach. As part of the update, Reach will play at 4K and 60 frames per second.
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Tesla is making a new game available to its vehicle owners, with a roll-out starting today. The company started pushing out a new “Arcade” app for its in-car infotainment system back in June at the annual E3 gaming conference, and now it’s adding to the mix the most thrilling game around: Chess.
This isn’t the first time games have been on Tesla’s infotainment screens; it has had them available as “Easter eggs,” or hidden software features. Tesla began demoing Arcade in its showrooms back in June, too, so that visitors to their showrooms could come in and give it a try through June 30.
Tesla drivers can either play against their passengers, against their car or watch the car play against itself. Tesla’s teaser for the release of the Chess game includes a western-themed Tesla driver playing in a field, which is an interesting narrative choice. The promo also notably has the person using this while parked, which is the only way you can actually play the games, for obvious reasons.
When your car can do zero-to-sixty faster than you can make your next move, we call that a checkmate.
Chess begins rolling out to the Tesla Arcade globally today 🤠♟ pic.twitter.com/cNRf3kAtAA
— Tesla (@Tesla) July 26, 2019
In addition to the update going out broadly, Tesla also announced that “Beach Buggy Racing,” a kart racing game you can control with Tesla’s steering wheel, gets an update, which will let you use two game controllers at once to do local multiplayer with a passenger. Again, not while driving.
Bethesda also revealed at E3 the mobile game Fallout Shelter being played on the in-car display, and Elon Musk has discussed opening up the platform more broadly to developers, so we’ll see if that’s the next step after this rollout of the Arcade app to users.
Video assistant referee systems can deliver mixed results for soccer fans. They might slow down the place of play and nudge referees to make harsher calls.Lucas Uebel/Getty ImagesWhen Liverpool and Norwich face off today in the season-opening match of the Premier League, fans in England may see a bit of tradition slip away. No longer will the referees act as the all-seeing, all-knowing gods of the pitch. They’ll have a team of second-guessers watching from above—the video assistant referee, or VAR. Despite major hiccups at the Women’s World Cup earlier this summer, and studies showing that the VAR system slows down the most beautiful game, the Premier League is set to finally institute video review. It is the last major soccer league to do so.At nearly $6 billion in annual revenue, the Premier League is one of the world’s richest sports organizations, so the consequences to a team for a referee’s penalty can be huge. Teams that lose and tumble in the standings get sent down to a lower-level league the following season. Playing in a lower league means less revenue for the team and the players. To try to get the calls right, Premier League officials spent two years figuring out how to make the video system work properly. Still, expect some weird stuff to happen on the field during this weekend’s matches.”I have no doubt it will create some controversy because it is about the big decisions, but we are prepared for that,” interim league chief executive Richard Masters told the BBC.The video assistant referee system, also known as VAR, adds a fifth official to the field along with a referee, an assistant referee, and two linesmen. That person—awkwardly also called the VAR—sits in a booth and monitors feeds from the multiple commercial broadcast cameras set up around the field to cover the match. If there’s some doubt over a penalty, goal, or offsides call, the video assistant referee can review the play and then signal to the referee on the field to take a look at an image of the play on a screen on the sideline. After reviewing the play in real time or slow motion, the referee decides whether to change his decision. (At least in the Premier League, all referees are male.)At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. At the recent Women’s World Cup, however, players and coaches were upset that the video system was being applied to minor infractions, such as the rarely enforced rule that goalkeepers must stay on their line during a penalty kick. Others complained that VAR should have been used when it wasn’t, or that it didn’t help referees make close calls.While most VAR calls only take a minute or so on the field, some decisions have taken longer and slowed the pace and rhythm of a fast-moving and momentum-driven sport.Two years ago, US referee Carlos Salazar had a pretty rough afternoon with VAR. He was the first Major League Soccer referee to use video review technology, during the second half of a match between FC Dallas and the Philadelphia Union on August 5, 2017.“I made the first mistake,” says Salazar, a longtime MLS on-field referee who now works in the upstairs booth as a video assistant referee, about his initial call.In the game, Salazar initially signaled a goal for Dallas forward Maxi Urruti. Then the video review began, but the technology didn’t work seamlessly. The radio connection between Salazar and the VAR booth failed, so the crew had to communicate to a sideline official through a walkie-talkie, and then to Salazar on the field. After several minutes of back-and-forth discussion and after reviewing what happened on the field, he ended up overturning his decision. It turned out that Urruti had kicked the goalkeeper in the groin before striking the ball, a clear and obvious foul.“It felt like you had some egg on your face,” Salazar says about his initial bad call. “Nobody wants to be wrong.” Salazar says it took him about a dozen games to get comfortable asking for a video review on a controversial play. “If we can get through the game without going to the monitor, that’s a successful day,” he says.Right now in MLS, referees do video reviews about every third game. A study published last month by researchers at Spain’s University of Vigo found that using VAR slowed down first-half play in Italian and German professional soccer leagues, although players adapted in the second half by committing fewer fouls. Compared to earlier seasons, the number of offsides, penalties and yellow cards dropped after video review was introduced.Another team of sports scientists, at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in Belgium, has been analyzing thousands of video plays over the past two years in several European soccer leagues. They found that VAR raised the accuracy of “match-changing” referee calls from 92 to 98 percent, according to Jochim Spitz, a research analyst in KU Leuven’s Department of Movement Science. “It was a big improvement,” says Spitz, who is reviewing the calls as part of a research project with the International Football Association Board, which sets rules for all pro soccer leagues.Spitz says soccer referees’ decision-making skills are influenced by the speed of play. They are more likely to call a harsher foul against a player when they watch a replay in slow motion. To test his theory, Spitz and his team sent video clips to nearly 90 refs in five countries, as described in a paper published last year in the journal Cognitive Research. Refs who watched the replays in slow motion were more likely to issue a red card, which leads to a player getting kicked out for the rest of the match, than a warning yellow card.The MLS’s Salazar argues that slow motion should only be used to determine where a ball hits a player on the body or on the field, not how hard one player tackles another. Salazar says he expects his colleagues in the Premier League will do fine this weekend with the first day of VAR, but the players, coaches, managers, and fans have to accept the technology as well.“Those officials will have a tough time if people do not embrace it,” he says.At least one purist says VAR has removed a part of soccer’s unexpected and inherently unfair spirit. By relying on video technology rather than the human biases of a ref, the game is slower and less emotional. It also gives an edge to the more powerful, wealthy teams over weaker, poorer teams. “The problem with the VAR system is that you make the game more fair,” says Kjetil Kåre Haugen, a sports management expert at Norway’s Mölde University College. “The more fair the sport is, the more it benefits the better teams.”Haugen laid out his argument in a paper in the OA Journal – Sports. Haugen contends that the reason people watch sports, and why businesses invest in it, is the uncertainty of the outcome of each game. VAR, he argues, negatively affects this uncertainty outcome. But that isn’t stopping him from watching the Premier League play this weekend.More Great WIRED StoriesThe weird, dark history of 8chan and its founder8 ways overseas drug manufacturers dupe the FDAListen, here’s why the value of China’s yuan really mattersA Boeing code leak exposes security flaws deep in a 787The terrible anxiety of location sharing apps🏃🏽♀️ Want the best tools to get healthy? Check out our Gear team’s picks for the best fitness trackers, running gear (including shoes and socks), and best headphones.📩 Get even more of our inside scoops with our weekly Backchannel newsletter
Bury won automatic promotion from League Two last season, but have not yet played a competitive fixture in 2019-20Bury’s away fixture against Rotherham on Tuesday has been suspended by the English Football League – their fifth successive game to be called off.The suspension comes as the League One club works towards a 23 August deadline to avoid expulsion from the EFL.The EFL say they have still not had evidence that Bury can pay creditors and have funding for the season ahead.Owner Steve Dale said earlier this week he has provided the required evidence and is prepared to sell the club.Curzon Ashton offers free entry for Bury season ticket holdersInside a summer to forget for Bolton and BuryShakers staff had issued a statement on Monday which “implored” Dale to accept an offer for Bury, who are yet to play a competitive fixture this season.The game against the Millers is Bury’s fourth League One fixture to be called off, in addition to Tuesday’s Carabao Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday.Bury have been charged by the EFL for their failure to fulfil that cup fixture, and referred to a disciplinary commission regarding the suspension of their opening four league games.A club statement said: “We are working tirelessly to find a solution to the current issues we are facing with the EFL. We would like to thank supporters for their patience and understanding at this frustrating time for all involved with Bury Football Club.”Bury have already been given a 12-point deduction after entering into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) – which is classed as an insolvency event by the EFL – as they try to clear some of their debts.A winding-up petition against them was dismissed by the High Court on 31 July, with Dale going on to claim the EFL was “working against” the club. The league’s executive chair Debbie Jevans later said the EFL was “not standing in the way” of the club’s survival.While a withdrawal of membership was served by the EFL and later suspended earlier in the summer, it has now been lifted, with the club now facing expulsion if financial order cannot be restored by 23 August.An EFL statement added: “Bury are due to play Tranmere on 24 August and, because of the close proximity to the notice of withdrawal deadline, a decision on whether to suspend that fixture will take place in the early part of week commencing 19 August.”
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Streaming is not only about playing games in front of a live audience but also showcasing your personality, connecting with the chat and making viewers feel like they’re in the room with you, hanging out with a friend. The wrong equipment can get in the way of this immersion, but the right setup can keep people watching for hours.When it comes to streaming hardware, there are two main areas to consider: how you look and how you sound. Let’s start with the visual.LightingPeople want to see your face while you’re playing games; it’s as simple as that. However, you don’t want to look blown out, shiny or covered in shadows, and proper lighting is the solution.Ring lights work well for showing off new gadgets or your favorite beauty vlogger’s nonexistent pores, but for streaming (or anyone with glasses), they can be a bit harsh. Ideally, a streamer wants clean, even lighting, and for that, you need softboxes with LED bulbs. Softboxes provide diffuse light while LEDs don’t run as hot as other bulbs, keeping you cool while you entertain the remote emote audience.If you have the floor space, the Neewer lighting kit has all the necessary pieces for $100, including two softboxes (20 x 27 inches) with dimmable LEDs, two stands, power adapters and a carrying case. General wisdom is to place the softboxes at 45-degree angles on either side of your streaming space, eliminating shadows and evenly lighting your green screen, if you choose to use one. Of course, every lighting situation is different, so feel free to play with angles and warmth to find that perfect kill-streak glow.Maybe your dorm room doesn’t have enough square footage for a hot plate and standing softboxes. In that case, a dimmable LED panel should work fine. The VILTROX L116T LED panel is affordable ($32) and effective, especially in a controlled environment. It has diffuse, dimmable light, and the whole thing measures just 20 x 13 x 3 centimeters. You’ll have to supply the AC power adapter or lithium battery though.CameraStreaming has joined the rest of the technology industry in the 4K era, and that means a professional-looking stream requires something more than your built-in webcam. If you’re serious about the streaming and vlogging business, look no further than the Sony a7 III, the best full-frame mirrorless camera that $1,998 can buy. The A7 III shoots video in 4K, and it’s what all the top YouTube creators are using today.If you want to stream in 4K for less cash, the Sony Alpha a6500 is just over $1,098. The major benefit in buying a 4K camera for streaming comes in scalability: These are ideal for shooting YouTube videos and other edited content once your Twitch channel takes off. However, it’s perfectly valid to start your streaming career with a 1080p webcam like Logitech’s C920S ($65). Many streamers get their start with this little beauty and then upgrade to 4K once the subscribers start flowing.Another advantage of the C920 is its built-in ability to go live — something that Sony’s 4K offerings can’t do on their own. Luckily, there’s a dongle for that.Once you have the camera, make it a streaming machine with the Elgato Cam Link 4K. It’s a $118 dongle that connects compatible cameras to your PC and allows you to go live. Most of Sony’s wares are on the compatibility list, along with models from GoPro, Panasonic and other major manufacturers.Visual appeal is half the battle. The second half is all about how you sound, and for that, you’ll need a quality mic.MicFor the best audio quality, you’ll need a standalone microphone that captures your voice while minimizing background noise. Microphones generally come in two flavors, dynamic and condenser. Dynamic mics are rugged and can handle extremely loud sounds with ease while condenser mics are more sensitive and are able to capture higher-quality sounds. For streaming, when you want to eliminate all sounds except your voice, dynamic mics are a safe bet.The Shure SM7B ($399) is a top dynamic-mic pick for many podcasters and streamers, providing those perfect mouth pops even in the midst of a celebratory scream. Rode also makes a solid dynamic mic with the $220 Procaster.That said, condenser mics aren’t out of the running. It’s possible to play with the settings in your streaming software, particularly the noise gate, and get the most out of a mic like the Blue Yeti ($90+), a longstanding classic of streaming and podcasting lore.
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It can be difficult to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play we suggest video games that can be started and finished in a weekend.
Claire is on a camping trip with her Aunt May, but she’s also waiting for an important call. Unfortunately, the only reception in the park is at the top of the island’s giant mountain. Claire’s trek up the mountain is the core of the game A Short Hike, and how you get her to the top is pretty open ended. You could go straight up the path to the top of the mountain — but then you’d be missing out on the point of the game.
A Short Hike feels like what you would get if you turned Animal Crossing into an adventure game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Yes, it’s an experience full of cute cartoon animal people, but more importantly A Short Hike has a similar sensibility to those two Nintendo games. Like both, the goal of the game is less important than how you spend your time getting to it. And so your trek up a mountain ends up full of much smaller tasks, which, like in Animal Crossing, are nice and relaxing.
You can spend time collecting seashells, searching for buried treasure, fishing, or helping other visitors to the park find lost items. However, while those serve as relaxing distractions, the rewards for doing them also help with your ascent up the mountain. At the start of her trek Claire is only able to jump, glide, and climb up walls or cliffs until she gets too tired and lets go. But by completing these side activities you’ll usually get some sort of tool that allows you to perform more actions, like being able to run by getting running shoes or dig by getting a shovel.
Mainly, though, you’ll be trying to collect golden feathers. These feathers act like Link’s stamina bar in Breath of the Wild: the more you have, the more you can climb before tiring out. Except, unlike Link’s stamina bar, each feather also provides you with an additional jump (which, because Claire is a bird, is more of a flap than a jump). Each flap consumes a chunk of your climbing stamina, while not providing as much height as you could have gotten just from climbing.
The climb up the mountain becomes about balancing. You have to determine how much you jump before you start climbing, in order to maximize what stamina you have. Although this is really only a concern if you try to get up the mountain as quickly as you can. If you spend your time exploring the park and taking part in all the different activities available, you’ll end up with more than enough golden fathers to make those later sections a good bit easier.
And you’ll want to spend time exploring, because the mountain is much bigger than you expect it to be. It’s a place full of interesting environments and ruins, as well as quirky and clever characters who you can’t help but want to hang around with or help out. In fact, the writing is maybe the best thing about the game. There is very little of it, but every character feels distinct from the next, and charming in their own way (even the kid that overcharges you for feathers). And when you do finally get to the top of the mountain it’s an emotional gut punch that both validates and recontextualizes whatever path you took to get there.
Luckily, getting to the top isn’t the end. Instead, it essentially frees you up to explore the park without any explicit goal. Maybe you want to catch all the different fish, win the foot race, or just stand near the beach and watch the waves. It’s a perfect structure, because even if the game had ended at the top of the mountain, I’d have found it pretty hard to not start a new game just to wander around the park some more.
A Short Hike was created by Adam Robinson-Yu. You can get it for $7.99 on Steam or Itch.io (Windows, macOS, and Linux). It takes about an hour or two to finish.
“The information contained in this game has no intended connection to actual individuals, groups, areas, incidents, or ideas,” reads the splash screen for mobile game BTS World, right underneath the face of one of the seven members of K-pop band Bangtan Sonyeondan. It’s not just a cognitive dissonance that the game seems unwilling to address, but the one it’s founded on.
The main story sees the protagonist whisked back from 2019 to 2012, before the band debuted or even met. She (and the English translation does only use she / her; a gendering that the original Korean likely doesn’t need to contend with as a language that rarely uses pronouns) immediately leaps into forming the group that she loves, bringing them together and managing them as they get ready for their debut.
It puts the player in a position to “get to know” the band. As well as generally chatting as the story unfolds, players are also able to communicate with band members via social media, texts, and phone calls. The draw of becoming close to characters in this way is common in mobile games and visual novels, but BTS World is different. Here, the characters are facsimiles of real people. Each conversation is supported by photographs, audio recordings, and videos made by the actual band members.
The draw of the game is forming or, more likely, strengthening parasocial relationships with the members of BTS. The term refers to a feeling of closeness, usually between a fan and a celebrity. The fan observes the celebrity through entertainment, social media, and so on, and feels as if they know them, despite seeing only a distorted fragment which is never the same as knowing someone personally. The celebrity, of course, usually has no idea they even exist.
Parasocial relationships are in no way unique to K-pop, but the genre has utilized them incredibly effectively. Idol groups, more than most bands, allow fans “inside” their lives through video logs, social media, variety TV shows, and more. None have been more successful in cultivating these relationships than the juggernaut that is BTS.
Take, for example, a recent article in The Atlantic by Lenika Cruz, titled “I wasn’t a Fan of BTS. And Then I Was.” She writes:
I tend to explain BTS’s appeal like this: Imagine if the players on your favorite sports team (the members train like athletes, after all) were also your favorite musicians and the stars of your favorite reality-TV show and you also thought of them as family members.
Imagining BTS, or any celebrity, to be as close as family can be harmless fun. The investment increases the buzz of excitement around anything they do, and it leads to a strong camaraderie among the “in” group. But it walks a very thin line. Cruz spoke to former Verge editor Laura Hudson, who had tweeted about getting into the band and being flooded by fans in a way she compares to being a “cult.” “But if it is a cult … it seems like one that’s focused on positivity and acceptance,” says Hudson.
That isn’t always true. A sense of protectiveness can lead some parts of the fan base to be quick to form harassment mobs. Billboard’s K-pop correspondent Tamar Herman, for example, recently demonstrated a death threat she received, allegedly from a BTS fan, and the replies to her tweet are full of justifications as to why she deserved it.
This is, again, not unique to K-pop, but fans who cross the line are prevalent enough within that industry to have their own name: sasaeng. The term usually refers to someone who invades the privacy of an idol, perhaps breaking into their homes, finding and calling their personal phone numbers, or attempting to grab or kiss them when they are in public. Ironically enough, the protagonist of BTS World sometimes feels as though she’s veering into sasaeng territory. She is certainly working from preexisting parasocial relationships with the band, being a fan from the future who is completely thrilled to get a chance to meet her idols.
When rapper Min “Suga” Yunki appears for the first time, for example, a heartbeat sound plays over his form appearing on-screen. And, despite going into the game with an understanding of what parasocial relationships are and why the game would be encouraging them, I would be lying if I didn’t say my own heartbeat picked up at seeing my favorite member. I like Suga. I’ve seen him go from hyper-competent stage performer to grinning young man playing games with his band brothers, and speaking (seemingly) candidly about his struggles with mental illness. I don’t know him. But I feel like I do.
Because of this, the game makes it easy to step into the protagonist’s shoes. I’m excited every time I unlock an additional bit of Suga content, because I get to chat with him more. The same goes for the others. “I just want you to be happy,” I text Park Jimin. I can even outfit them more to my liking, putting Jung “J-Hope” Hoseok in a pink sweater and headband, because I think it looks cuter.
That also means it’s easy to overlook when things are going distinctly beyond a manager-client relationship. Kim “Jin” Seok-jin tells me he’s always thinking about me when eating. “It’s even more delicious that way,” he tells me. Suga buzzes my phone and I have the option to say that “the most handsome of them all” is texting me.
Lines become even more blurred in the “Another Story” section, which is poorly explained, but features the protagonist meeting the band members as if they had never gone into music. Of course, being from 2019, she still knows who they are and inserts herself into their lives. She gets a job at the same dog rescue sanctuary as J-Hope; moves to live in Kim “RM” Namjoon’s neighborhood. Jeon Jungkook, who is a fifteen-year-old high school student, repeatedly turns down her offers to go to dinner, but she persists until he agrees.
As Polygon’s Palmer Haasch correctly identifies, the game is basically different flavors of self-insert fan fiction. Stories where fans get to imagine themselves meeting and befriending famous people they admire have been around for decades, if not longer. But for just as long, the ethics of twisting real people’s lives like this for entertainment has been a subject of debate.
But this professionally developed mobile game is a clear escalation. Almost all real-person fan-fic is nonprofit, created for the writers’ own entertainment. BTS World, on the other hand, was brought to life by those who hold the contracts to BTS’s work, likenesses, and livelihoods. And they didn’t do it out of consideration for fans who might want to enjoy a self-insert story, but to wring money from them.
Players can pay for gashapon-style rewards, drawing cards that offer stats to progress the game, unlocking more interactions with the band. They also feature a picture, or in the case of rare five-star cards, a GIF, of a member which can be downloaded once unlocked. Collecting them all is encouraged, which would likely cost thousands of dollars thanks to the low drop rates of the most uncommon cards. And even outside of the game, the increased feeling of closeness caused by “chatting” with the band is likely to drive sales of albums, merchandise, and so on.
BTS’s members have been characters for a while, on social media, TV shows, and even in their music. Without knowing them personally, no one can tell how much of that is performance; what aspects of themselves are exaggerated or left unexplored. But it is clear that literally turning them into game characters further blurs this line between person and persona, in a way that is intended to bring fans even closer to their idols — all in the hopes they’ll shell out more cash.
Thus far, gamers have streamed 30 million hours of gameplay across 1,000+ games to PCs, Macs and NVIDIA’s own SHIELD platform. The addition of Android to the list will start with a beta test, and NVIDIA recommends using a Bluetooth controller for those who want to join, as touch-based controls are not supported by the vast majority of PC games. Most users would likely prefer to game on bigger screens, but for some bedroom gaming, an Android tablet would be a solid fallback. Gaming on the go with cellular data will likely be a non-starter, given the bandwidth required to consistently stream high resolution video.NVIDIA has also announced that it will begin rolling out its RTX servers today in Northern California and Germany, with more locations to come. Each RTX blade server packs 40 GPUs, processing games for multiple GeForce NOW users simultaneously. These servers will also be available to third parties for non-gaming computing, such as datacenter number crunching.NVIDIA says that GeForce NOW will see a public launch sometime this year, though a specific timeframe hasn’t been announced. Gamers can still sign up for the free beta’s waitlist here.
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