E3 2017: Video Games Take Centre-Stage as Spectator Sport

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/ Getty Images North America/ AFP
HIGHLIGHTS
YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook turned gamers into online stars at E3 2017
The e-Sports matches were hugely popular at the annual gaming expo
YouTube billed itself as the biggest gaming platform with record audience
Long fiercely guarded video game industry terrain, the Electronic Entertainment Expo kicked off Tuesday with YouTube, Twitch and Facebook turning gamers into online stars.

A hot trend of video game play streamed as spectator sport and “YouTubers” becoming famous for skills or pithy commentary pervaded the annual gathering, from unveilings of titles to major ‘e-Sports’ matches staged for the first time on the show floor.

“There is a reality now that the influencers of the gaming industry are no longer the games, but the YouTube creators,” YouTube head of gaming Ryan Wyatt told AFP.

E3 2017: Video Games Take Centre-Stage as Spectator Sport

“It is smart to bring creators into the fold so the feedback is constructive, and not scathing reviews.”

Players who have risen to stardom by streaming play online took part in theatrical press conferences held by game and console makers in the days ahead of the formal opening of E3.

Unveilings of eagerly-awaited titles and new franchises were streamed live on platforms including Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube – drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers.

YouTube billed itself as the biggest gaming platform, and said that broadcasters from E3 racked up record-sized audiences.

“Before publishers caught on to the power of the creator, I think creators felt alienated,” Wyatt said, referring to players who stream game action and comment online.

“All of that has changed now. They are integrated into the show and their feedback goes into the design, marketing and promotion of games.

Outshining real-world sports
Video game competition as spectator sport is driving the industry in many ways, according to Craig Levine, chief of leading e-Sports company ESL.

Developers are building games with features to be attractive online spectator events, offerings at E3 showed.

“There are more people watching these games than playing them; it has more than crept into the design cycle,” Levine told AFP.

As competitive performance climbs as a priority, hardware makers push to field better computer chips, screens, controllers and more.

This week, for the first time at E3, there was an e-Sports zone powered by ESL where video game battles were fought and streamed online.

“ESports has one of the fastest growing audiences in not just video games but all of entertainment,” said Rich Taylor, senior vice president of communications at the Electronic Software Association behind E3.

The eSports industry will accelerate from roughly $200 million (roughly Rs. 1,288 crores) in revenue in 2015 to $1-billion (roughly Rs. 6,436 crores) by 2018, according to Baird Equity Research estimates cited by E3 organisers.

In the coming three years, the global audience for eSports was predicted to grow to a half-billion viewers, eclipsing the numbers watching traditional real-world sports, according to Levine.

And, while the focus at E3 was on games for consoles or Windows-powered computers, mobile game play is consistently in top ranks when it comes to viewing, according to YouTube.

More women gamers
The gaming community is huge at Facebook, which returned to E3 this year with an area for live-streamed chats with developers and personalities, and where visitors could share thoughts about the show at the social network and capture memories with 3D or augment reality technology that put them into game scenes.

During the past month, 43 million people have made some 115 million posts, ‘likes,’ and comments related to E3 and major titles.

More than a third of that sharing came from women, who are a growing part of the gaming community, according to Facebook.

“We’ve seen this community of gamers continue to grow and evolve each year – with women now taking a growing share of the conversation around E3,” said Facebook head of global console and online gaming Franco DeCesare.

About 800 million members of the social network play at least one Facebook game monthly, director of global games partnerships Leo Olebe told AFP.

Facebook worked with ESL, video game giant Activision and others at E3 to create content for the social network.

“The fact that the player really is at the center of everything is really powerful,” Olebe told AFP.

“As the player takes a larger role in what’s happening inside our industry, Facebook is perfectly positioned to facilitate that process.”

Celebrating the Music of Video Games as an Art Form

HIGHLIGHTS

  • London Symphony Orchestra will perform game music this weekend
  • Music will include songs from Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario
  • This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first game-music concert

The electronic bleeps and squawks of Tetris, Donkey Kong and other generation-shaping games that you may never have thought of as musical are increasingly likely to be playing at a philharmonic concert hall near you.

From the “ping … ping” of Atari’s 1972 ground-breaking paddle game Pong, the sounds, infectious ditties and, with time, fully-formed orchestral scores that are an essential part of the sensory thrill for gamers have formed a musical universe. With its own culture, sub-cultures and fans, game music now thrives alone, free from the consoles from which it came.

When audiences pack the Philharmonie de Paris’ concert halls this weekend to soak in the sounds of a chamber orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra performing game music and an homage to one of the industry’s stars, Final Fantasy Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu, they will have no buttons to play with, no characters to control.

They’re coming for the music and the nostalgia it triggers: of fun-filled hours spent on sofas with a Game Boy, Sonic the Hedgehog and the evergreen Mario.

“When you’re playing a game you are living that music every day and it just gets into your DNA,” says Eimear Noone, the conductor of Friday’s opening two-hour show of 17 titles, including Zelda, Tomb Raider, Medal of Honor and other favorites from the 1980s onward.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBV1MLX02fM?ecver=2]

“When people hear those themes they are right back there. And people get really emotional about it. I mean REALLY emotional. It’s incredible.”

Dating the birth of game music depends on how one defines music. Game music scholars – yes, they exist – point to key milestones on the path to the surround-sound extravaganzas of games today.

The heartbeat-like bass thump of Taito’s Space Invaders in 1978, which got ever faster as the aliens descended,caused sweaty palms and was habit-forming.

Namco’s Pac-Man, two years later, whetted appetites with an opening musical chirp . For fun, check out the 2013 remix by Dweezil Zappa, son of Frank, and game music composer Tommy Tallarico. Their take on the tune speaks to the sub-culture of remixing game music, with thousands of redos uploaded by fans to sites like ocremix.org – dedicated, it says, “to the appreciation and promotion of video game music as an art form.”

Celebrating the Music of Video Games as an Art Form

Based on the Russian folk song Korobeiniki, the music of the 1984 game Tetris has similarly undergone umpteen remixes – including Tetris Meets Metal, with more than 2.2 million views on YouTube.By 1985, the can’t-not-tap-along-to-this theme of Super Mario Bros., the classic adventure of plumber Mario and his brother Luigi, was bringing fame for composer Koji Kondo, also known for his work on Legend of Zelda. Both are on the bill for the Retrogaming concert in Paris. Kondo was the first person Nintendo hired specifically to compose music for its games, according to the 2013 book, Music and Game.

Noone, known herself for musical work on World of Warcraft, Overwatch and other games, says the technological limitations of early consoles – tiny memories, rudimentary chips, crude sounds – forced composers “to distill their melodies down to the absolute kernels of what melodic content can be, because they had to program it note by note.”

But simple often also means memorable. Think “da-da-da-duh” – the opening of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

“That is part of the reason why this music has a place in people’s hearts and has survived,” Noone says of game tunes. “It speaks to people.”

She says game music is where movie music was 15 years ago: well on its way to being completely accepted.

“I predict that in 15 years’ time it will be a main staple of the orchestral season,” she says. “This is crazy to think of: Today, more young people are listening to orchestral music through the medium of their video game consoles than have ever listened to orchestral music.”

She still sometimes encounters snobbism from orchestras: “They saw ‘Pong’ once and that’s video game music to them, you know?”

But “halfway through the first rehearsal, their attitude has changed,” she adds. “And then when they walk out on stage and the audience treats them like they’re The Rolling Stones.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first game-music concert: The Tokyo Strings Ensemble performed Dragon Quest at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall in August 1987. Now there are six touring shows of symphonic game music, Noone says.

“This is just the best way, the most fun way to introduce kids to the instruments of the orchestra,” she adds. “It may be the first time ever they are that close to a cellist, and that’s really exciting for me.”

 

Google Play Now Has an 'Android Excellence' Section With Curated Apps and Games

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The lists in the section will be refreshed quarterly
  • Android Excellence can be found in revamped Editor’s Choice section
  • The section promotes the content that follows Google’s guidelines

Google has introduced a new section in Google Play store called ‘Android Excellence’. This section is meant to promote apps that have great design, performance, or follow the best practices given by the search giant itself. The newly introduced Android Excellence section can be found in the revamped Editor’s Choice section and promotes content and provides recognition to the apps that follow “best practices,” as per the company.

The move comes a week after Apple announced that it’s completely revamping the App Store with iOS 11 to place greater focus on manual curation of apps, with daily updates in the form of lists, developer stories, and more.

“The new collections will showcase apps and games that deliver incredible user experiences on Android, use many of our best practices, and have great design, technical performance, localisation, and device optimisation,” Google said in its blog post.

Google Play Now Has an 'Android Excellence' Section With Curated Apps and Games

Google says that the Android Excellence collections will be refreshed quarterly. Currently, some of the notable mentions in the first round Android Excellence Games include Hitman GO, Pictionary, Riptide GP: Renegade, and Toca Blocks. On the other hand, some of the noteworthy names in Android Excellence Apps include Evernote, Memrise, Pocket, and Skyscanner.

As the lists will be refreshed after a considerable time, it might not be the best place to find great new apps or games but the entries that make this list are likely to get abundance of promotion and exposure. This is likely to prove as a great incentive for app developers to follow the guidelines provided by Google for Android apps.

Google Play Now Has an 'Android Excellence' Section With Curated Apps and Games

HIGHLIGHTS
The lists in the section will be refreshed quarterly
Android Excellence can be found in revamped Editor’s Choice section
The section promotes the content that follows Google’s guidelines
Google has introduced a new section in Google Play store called ‘Android Excellence’. This section is meant to promote apps that have great design, performance, or follow the best practices given by the search giant itself. The newly introduced Android Excellence section can be found in the revamped Editor’s Choice section and promotes content and provides recognition to the apps that follow “best practices,” as per the company.

The move comes a week after Apple announced that it’s completely revamping the App Store with iOS 11 to place greater focus on manual curation of apps, with daily updates in the form of lists, developer stories, and more.

“The new collections will showcase apps and games that deliver incredible user experiences on Android, use many of our best practices, and have great design, technical performance, localisation, and device optimisation,” Google said in its blog post.

Google Play Now Has an 'Android Excellence' Section With Curated Apps and Games

Google says that the Android Excellence collections will be refreshed quarterly. Currently, some of the notable mentions in the first round Android Excellence Games include Hitman GO, Pictionary, Riptide GP: Renegade, and Toca Blocks. On the other hand, some of the noteworthy names in Android Excellence Apps include Evernote, Memrise, Pocket, and Skyscanner.

As the lists will be refreshed after a considerable time, it might not be the best place to find great new apps or games but the entries that make this list are likely to get abundance of promotion and exposure. This is likely to prove as a great incentive for app developers to follow the guidelines provided by Google for Android apps.

E3 2017: Sony's PlayLink for PS4 Will Let You Play Games Using Your Phone

HIGHLIGHTS

  • PlayLink lets you play games on your PS4 via a smartphone
  • Titles vary from crime thrillers to quick-fire quizzes
  • PlayLink titles include That’s You!, Hidden Agenda

At the ongoing E3 2017 in Los Angeles, California, Sony announced some of its most anticipated games for PlayStation for the year including God of War, Spider-Man and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, to name a few. Console titles aside, the company also introduced PlayLink, which allows users to play games with family and friends using their smartphones and tablets.

PlayLink is aimed at creating a fun, interactive way to play games in a social setting. Based on a video Sony released showcasing the feature, PlayLink requires a smartphone or tablet, a TV, and a PlayStation 4 console, which, when set up, lets you and your group of family or friends play interactive PlayLink titles.

E3 2017: Sony's PlayLink for PS4 Will Let You Play Games Using Your Phone

“PlayLink games turn your smartphone or tablet into a versatile controller – you can swipe, pinch, drag, tilt, rotate or even snap selfies and draw crafty doodles, depending on the game. No matter which title you choose from our PlayLink collection, it’s guaranteed to be a slick pick-up-and-play experience,” Sony said in a blog post.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cadj8hWApE8?ecver=2]

PlayLink titles range from crime thrillers to quick-fire quizzes. In one of the videos, for example, you see a group of people playing That’s You! – a quiz-based app that “challenges you and up to five friends to get personal and find out what you really think about each other.” This will be one of the first titles for PlayLink and will be available for PlayStation Plus members for free starting July 4.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDAxfMpriAU?ecver=2]

Another video shows a crime and narrative-based game called Hidden Agenda that allows up to six people to join in. The game requires the players to make tough, quick decisions as the story progresses, which will also influence the way the game moves forward.

Sony sees PlayLink as something that can come in handy during social gatherings as well as rope in new players to video games. It also reminds one of Jackbox Games’ Party Pack multi-platform social games. Some other PlayLink titles that can be expected soon include Knowledge is Power, Frantic, and SingStar Celebration.