Videogames

Neurosciencing a microprocessor

Now this is a topic that is rather fascinating to me: The scientists Eric Jonas and Konrad Paul Kording are applying the methods of neuroscience to a simulated microprocessor (a MOS-6502-Chip similar to the one used in the Commodore C64) in order to describe the observed behavior. Is it possible to get an idea of functionality? Apperantly, in 2002 there was a former study "Can a biologist fix a radio" (by Juri Lazebnik) with a very similar topic.

Here we will examine three different “behaviors”, that is, three different games: Donkey Kong (1981), Space Invaders (1978), and Pitfall (1981). Obviously these “behaviors” are qualitatively different from those of animals and may seem more complicated. However, even the simple behaviors that are studied in neuroscience still involve a plethora of components, typically including the allocation of attention, cognitive processing, and multiple modalities of inputs and outputs. As such, the breadth of ongoing computation in the processor may actually be simpler than those in the brain.

As it turns out in both cases: No, the methods of neuroscience/biology are not sufficient to understand or describe the behavior of the respective system. Does this mean anything? Yes and no. They are not designed to understand technology. Vice versa, an expert in reverse engineering probably would not understand a specified lifeform by the application of his methods aswell. But on the other hand the study reveals that we do not know for sure if the methods and the results they generate are useful for the purpose of understanding e.g. the brain. Do we have language centers in the brain or is this comparable to the misconception of space invaders centers in the micro processor?

Eric Jonas, Konrad Paul Kording: Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?

Golem: Könnten Hirnforscher einen C64 verstehen?

 

Image: Image of the circuit board of a Commodore 64 showing some important MOS Technology circuits: the 6510 CPU (long chip, lower left) and the 6581 SID (right). The production week/year (WWYY) of each chip is given below its name. Found on Wikipedia by Jef-Infojef

DeepMind can play it hard aswell

Googles AI DeepMind is an impressive system that was able to master hard tasks as playing Go or generating humand language in the recent time. In a new article, Google scientists describe the way, DeepMind reacts on challenges as competing or cooperating with another player for success in computer games. DeepMind plays those games and learns by doing so. In the end, it shows that it plays aggressive when competing and cooperative when cooperating. This is no surprise and the term aggressive is only used as the game describes colored pixels that are competing for green pixels (apples) that appear randomly on the screen. In order to prevent the other player from reaching an apple, they are able to "fire" "laser beams" to let them skip a round - which could also be dubbed as "send" "love messages" but whatever. I am still in awe about DeepMind and its abilities and long for every new detail - but after playing the apple gathering game it is a bit early for the Terminator references.

Business Insider: Google's new AI has learned to become 'highly aggressive' in stressful situations

Teamplayer, Ego Shooter, First Person Shooter

In German, the word "Ego Shooter" is often used for "first person shooter". This may be due to the fact that "Erste Person" (first person) is not a common forms to describe perspective. Instead, we say "Ego Perspektive" for "first person" and so developed the term "Ego Shooter". Unfortunatley, the word ego may also refer to egoism and it was just a matter of time until "Ego Shooter" is used as a dysphemism, for example here as an opposition to team player:

„Wer wird zum Teamplayer, wer zum Ego-Shooter, wer überwindet seine Ängste, wer wird der neue Dauerpatient von Dr. Bob und wer wird 2017 König oder Königin des Dschungels?“ (TV channel RTL in an announcement)

"Who will become team player [and] who will become Ego Shooter [...]"

Verband für Deutschlands Video- und Computerspieler: Als Dysphemismus verselbständigt

 

Who is Lara Croft

Two words: Lara Croft. OK, stop there. What did you see? An image will undoubtedly have flashed into your mind. She is, after all, one of gaming's most widely-recognised characters, so you almost certainly have an idea of who 'Lara Croft' is. Yet her appearance and personality have changed so dramatically over the past 19 years, there is arguably no single Lara Croft.

Gamesradar+ Think you know Lara Croft? Don't be so sure...

Oh thank you, dear Justin Towell - this is such an interesting topic. 

So, who is my personal Lara Croft? It is certainly not the innocent girl in the reboot - who needs to be nearly raped in order to become a mass murderer. Don't get me wrong: I think the "reboot" called Tomb Raider is a fabulous and fun game with an intense Tomb Raider-feeling - but it has little to do with "Lara Croft".

For ME, the most defining Lara Croft was the one from Tomb Raider comics I read in the early 2000s. Here, Lara is a mix between the women in Tomb Raider 1 to 3: Highly educated, rich, privileged - i.e. she does what she does but not for money nor fame - she is not corruptable, but so dawn curious and ambitious that she travels the world, risking everything for an object or story that just is interesting for her. Saving the world - if necessary .
Sometimes she has a bit of James Bond - but in general she is just an adventurer with the heart on the right spot.
And: sometimes she is more ruthless when it comes to enforcing the victory than the other famous adventurer and archeologist, Indiana Jones (who was not so innocent at all).
I think that was the heroine who was able to become worlds most known female computer game character, as she was different than any other. Beautiful and sometimes oversexed, yes, but there are a lot of beautiful and sexy women in gaming. It needs more to become Lara Croft.

What's it like to be a female game character, Lara Croft?

Diana Maria.jpgLast weekend I bought a collection of 11 Tomb Raider games via humble bundle and am quite happy as I missed some of them like old friends - especially the first level of TR 2 which I played hundreds of times as a demo on my first iMac back in 1999. As a matter of fact, I still know every detail of the first minutes with a degree that is only compareable to Super Mario Bros 1-1 and the first level of Mirror's Edge. Well, saying this, I stumbled upon this really interesting interview with game character writer Rhianna Pratchett, known for Faith from Mirror's Edge and, of course, Lara Croft in the first part of the reboot. It deals with a wide range of topics like the differences between male and female characters, guys with boobs, LGBT character designs and cultural baggage:

I didn’t want to just make Lara a male character with boobs. It’s always kind of a…it is a human story at heart. But there things—the language she uses, or the way that she interacts—that could be said to be more feminine. I’m very much not talking about her sense of vulnerability or being scared. That again has been rolled out as: male characters aren’t shown as being scared or vulnerable, why should female characters? Well, just because it hasn’t been done with male characters doesn’t make it wrong! It’s probably more of a problem of the way we depict male characters.

Kill Screen: Tomb Raider writer Rhianna Pratchett on why every kill can't be the first and why she hoped to make Lara Croft gay

Image: „Diana Maria“ von Lara Croft Double Diana Maria Dorow - Diana Maria Dorow. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 de über Wikimedia Commons.

 

German Localization + 1 Extra-Dollar for Thimbleweed Park is a really cool stretch goal

Stretch goals for the localization of Thimbleweed Park

Interesting news regarding the Thimbleweed Kickstarter: Videogame localization legend Boris Schneider-Johne offered via Twitter to localize the brand new classic retro graphic point and click adventure game into German - for free:

Schneider-Johne was responsible for the great localization of the Lucasfilmgames graphic adventures Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island. Schneider-Johne first changed from videogame journalism at the German game magazine Power Play to the localizing site which as a matter of fact did not yet exist at this time.

His first localization was a localized "hack" of the Activision adventure game "Murder on the Mississippi": He used a Hex-Editor to alter the text-assets of the game - and created en passent one of the first german videogame localizations at all.

Well, as you may have seen on the image above: this is the kind, cool and tremendous reaction of the Thimbleweed Makers on Boris' kind, cool and tremendous offer.

Fund Thimbleweed Park

A dusty old desk drawer with an undiscovered Lucasfilm graphic adventure game

I know: There are always more things to fund than you actually can fund.

But if you're like me you definitily spend a Dollar or two on the game which was proposed yesterday by the idol of my youth - Ron Gilbert:

So we're [i.e. Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick] doing an Kickstarter for an all new classic point & click adventure game called "Thimbleweed Park". It will be like opening a dusty old desk drawer and finding an undiscovered Lucasfilm graphic adventure game you’ve never played before.

Grumpy Gamer: Please Join Us On Kickstarter

As a matter of fact, I spent 25 Bucks - in order to finally get absolution of guilt for pirating Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island as a kid.

Kickstarter: Thimbleweed Park: A New Classic Point & Click Adventure!