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My Next Gen Wishlist of Wishes

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I’d want to see sooner rather than later on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, so I thought I’d just scratch it down here and get the conversation going. There’s plenty more where these came from, so I may follow this up with a few more.

So…in no particular order;

Halo

I enjoyed Halo 4 a lot. Mostly because I just really like the Halo universe and the associated lore, so I’m prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt in that same irrational way that I give the vast majority of Star Wars stuff the benefit of the doubt. I know it had problems, but overall I enjoyed myself. For a next gen reinvigoration though, I want something we can all really sink our teeth into.

Top of my list; let’s flesh out a decent big bad of some description.

The Covenant are classic, but let’s face it; they’re played-out in their current context. Also: big daddy Covenant is dead. So we’re kinda done with them, right?

On the other hand, the Prometheans (particularly the Knights) seem pretty awesome, plus they do that great orange sparky-glowy dissolve thing when you kill them, which is particularly satisfying. My problem with them though is that their Senior Vice President of Evil, the Didact, is just a shitty bad guy. Sure, he looks like the offspring of Voldemort and Nosferatu wrapped in body armor crafted by the Reapers from Mass Effect, but whether you think he looks intimidating or credible or whatever, the bigger problem is the fact that his motivations are just silly. If you do some digging online, there’s a ton of information out there about why he’s so pissed at humanity and why he’s intent on wiping them out, but not much of it actually made it into the game. Top of the list; it’s not clear why he chose to try and digitize everyone to death, which just seems like an idea out of a crappy 80s sci-fi movie.

Maybe all he had to watch while he was stuck inside the Cryptum was a copy of Tron on VHS?

I understand that, like him or not, we’re stuck with Ur-Didact for the time being so hopefully we’ll see more of his history, and particularly his relationship with the Librarian, given some due attention. Next time I shoot a nuclear warhead at him, it’d be good to understand a bit more about him.

Also, it goes without saying that we need Halo multiplayer to go back to being more like Halo multiplay, and a lot less like Call of Duty multiplayer. And if they want to put Firefight in there too, pretty much as-is but with the new graphics engine, that certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Red Dead Revolution

Red Dead Revolver was set in the 1880s, Red Dead Redemption was set in 1911. While they share a franchise name, there was little to link the two games, and certainly no indication that there’s any kind of narrative thread running through the Red Dead timeline. For a third in the series, I think it could be interesting to push back in time again, maybe even as far as the 1840s or 1850s and tackle the transition from the California Republic to the admission of the state into the Union. This could introduce some Zorro-like shenanigans and perhaps some swordplay into the mix.

At first glance this may sound like I’m proposing that Rockstar turn Red Dead into Assassin’s Creed, but I think there’s a ton of potential for the brand to dig into American and Mexican history of the period and dabble in some creative storytelling around a Don Diego de la Vega style character, but with a grittier 21st century take on the concept. Note: I’m not saying “make a Zorro game,” just “make a game with a Zorro-style anti-hero in it.”

Hitman

Absolution ended up being an essentially linear experience that was made up of small open environments. Let’s go back to the freedom of earlier games, and allow for some big, elaborate hits that are less scripted and more opportunistic. Guns are fine for some hits, but it would be good to see the world filled with objects that may (or may not) be used to carry out the hit, either in combination with other objects or on their own. Rather than giving some objects in the world a credible physical model, I’d love to see everything behave more like we’d expect - so you can set up traps by stacking objects, binding them together, or relying on their mass and weight.

In terms of story - can we please go back to 47 being an international hitman? Also, let’s bring things back on track and have him back at the ICA again.

Also, Jesper Kyd for the soundtrack again, please.

Mass Effect Trilogy “Definitive Edition

I guess this is actually something that may happen, given recent rumblings and loose interpretations of Twitter commentary. I know some people may react with something along the lines of "why don't you just play the PC versions all the way through instead?" Or "it's not like the games are that old, just go back and play them again on PS3 or Xbox 360," and they would have a point...but I'm kinda craving awesome stuff for my next gen consoles right now, and Mass Effect is one of my favorite series of all time, along with Fallout and Elder Scrolls.

Speaking of Elder Scrolls...

The Elder Scroll: Skyrim

Same argument here as for Mass Effect. But is it likely? Eh, no. Will never happen in a million years, but if Bethesda ever wanted to port it to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and use the PC assets, that would be just fine with me. Maybe give the lighting a once-over while you’re at it.

Deus Ex: Human Evolution

I’m such a sucker for the whole cyberpunk aesthetic, and Eidos Montreal got so much right with Human Revolution that it made me happily overlook the things that they got wrong. For a sequel I’d like to see something post-2027, but pre-2050. The introduction of nano tech completely changes the dynamics of the Deus Ex universe, so witnessing the beginnings of that is something I’d like to see explored in some detail. Let’s call it “Human Evolution” to tie it in with the last game without slipping into sequel malaise. I’m happy to see Adam Jensen return, but for god’s sake can we have someone other than Elias Toufexis do his voice, please? His caricature-like Clint Eastwood sneer was almost comical in its delivery. I don’t know if he was trying to channel David Hayter and create something vaguely Snake-like, but it failed on just about every level for me. Jensen was a character with a credible backstory, clearly haunted by the position he found himself in, but in “real life” if he went around talking like that, everyone would just burst out laughing every time he opened his mouth. Let’s see an older, more experienced Jensen that delivers his lines like a human being.

Rather than have the new game hop from location to location, I’d like to see the new one have a single city that’s designed in a way that allows more of an open world RPG-like approach to the gameplay. Human Revolution did a pretty good job of presenting an illusion of freedom at times, but ultimately it was more of an elaborate shooter than a role playing game. Let’s fill the city with NPCs that behave in a “next gen” way… have them react to action as it unfolds around them. Also, let’s develop some multi-dimensional adversaries that are less comic-book “big bads” and build on some credible motivation for their actions. If Deus Ex was the James Bond franchise, we’re still in the silly years when it comes to the bad guys. It needs its Casino Royale moment.

One thing I wouldn’t change; the score. Bring back Michael McCann for the new game, and let him riff on Icarus as much as he damn well likes.

E3 Kick Off

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We're in LA, and we're nearly ready... our booth is nearly built, our gigantic "war room" (its 5000 sq ft, which is just bonkers) if filled with workstations, and we're ready to kick off our live programming tomorrow. We had our big global get-together meeting this evening, and I got to stand on a table and rally the troops before we all disperse to check out games. Justin, Giancarlo and I are still putting the finishing touches on stuff right now, while the rest of the team have headed out to the ESPN Zone restaurant for dinner. Initially I was jealous, but both Caro and Kevin have been tweeting for the past hour about how awful it is. Maybe we'll head somewhere else instead. The GameSpot UK guys went in search of charred, grilledmeat, maybe we'll track them down.

So...show kick off stuff:

We'll be bringing you live stream of all of the press conferences tomorrow and Tuesday, and then the big show itself features more live programming than we've ever done before. As with previous years we have our main stage that will be running throughout the event, which will be hosted by Chris Watters and Danny O'Dwyer. Then we also have a pro gaming stage in partnership with Major League Gaming that will be running games all day each day. Finally, we'll have our Bonus Stage which I'll be hosting, which will have more of a chat-show/podcast kinda vibe, and will feature guests from every walk of the games biz; developers, CEOs, folks from other outlets, and celebrities.

This whole thing is a huge production for us, and our approach is very different than it has been in previous years. Hopefully you enjoy what we are able to bring you from the show floor, and that you'll participate with us in the comments, and on Twitter.

Lots of cool changes

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We've been building towards the craziness of the past few weeks for a long time now. The Giant Bomb news last month was just the tip of the iceberg for visibile changes to our organization here, and over the next few weeks we'll have lots of great things to share with you - some of which are long overdue. Today we rolled out the first phase of our redesigned site; the top of our homepage is now quite different than it was before, and allows us to promote much more content and showcase some of the great imagery that we see accompanying games. It also lets our designers flex their creative muscles and get really imaginative with the way they illustrate our feature stories and editorials. Our engineers and producers have also completely retooled the "Most Popular" unit so that it now showcases more of the editorial and video that's associated with each game. Whenever we look at the metrics for our site, ths module has always been a really popular way for people to discover games - even when it was buried all the way at the bottom of the homepage. Remember that? A year ago we had one of our most successful navigation elements way down underneath everything else. We bumped it up to the top of the page last year, and now it's tweaked so that it's much more useful.

Something that people always ask for (and give me a really, really hard time about every time I post a link on Twitter) is a better mobile GameSpot experience; that's coming. And soon. Promise.

Our product guys and engineers are looking at every aspect of the site, and over the course of this year they'll be fixing stuff that's broken, optimizing things that need to be better, and rebuilding many tools from scratch. Very soon we'll have a completely different experience that's better for our team to serve content into, and more importantly something that's better for you all to share your views with too. Our blogs and commenting systems have been in need of work for a long time, and the comments and messages have not fallen on deaf ears.

A Manifesto of Sorts

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Hopefully you may have noticed this, but we've been going through a huge period of change here at GameSpot of late. We have evolved so much over the past six months or so, but we are still on our journey to bigger, better things. Last month I was interviewed by Stever Peterson at Industry Gamers, and the resulting conversation seemed to resonate with a lot of people. You can read that chat here and part two here. Given that people seemed to like what we talked about, I thought I'd share with you what we're striving for in 2012, and what I hope you will judge us by. This is by no means a full expression of editorial policy, but more a mini-manifesto for the year ahead.

  • In a modern media culture where everyone has a voice, our role has dramatically changed. GameSpot was built on many things, but a big part of it was being a source for screen shots, trailers, and basic preview content. These days though, this kind of content is more of a "commodity" than something special, and frankly it's boring. For us as well as you. At a time where we all consume content from the Internet as a whole, our job is much more than an asset delivery service.
  • The landscape has shifted, and our competitive set has changed. In the past it was different media brands pitted against each other, racing for exclusives. These days we have to differentiate ourselves from the commodities that the publishers and studios themselves distribute through official channels, and from the fantastic content being produced by passionate gamers on their blogs, on YouTube, in forums, and on livestreaming services.
  • We have resources, and we have access. It is our responsibility to bring these to bear for your benefit. Gaming is as much about culture as it is product, so we will endeavor to assert the personalities of that culture wherever possible. Gaming is about people, and what entertains them; not just "product." Our programming will (hopefully, or I'll be out of a job) find a balance between information and entertainment that works for you.
  • Our observations, reviews, and analysis pieces are intended to start conversations. Sometimes it's about the merits of an individual title, sometimes it's simply to highlight that something is funny or entertaining. We are curators.
  • We will never be afraid to adapt. If something isn't working, we'll change it. Nothing we do is so precious that it should exist purely for the sake of legacy. As gamers, you are on the cutting edge of media consumption, and your tastes lead trends in the way that media is absorbed. We'll be watching you very closely, and taking your feedback very seriously. If we think a content type, or approach isn't working - we will adapt. Just in the past few weeks we've been able to do this with our new show Screen Tear. By speaking with the audience on both GameSpot and on YouTube we have been able to change the format, the focus, and the voice of the show thanks to your input.
  • We will always look at opportunities to bring you coverage in terms of the different media types we produce. Video, live video, audio, written, or social media...we'll bring you the best possible coverage through the most appropriate media. Sometimes the best way to convey something is with a live video stream, sometimes all that's needed is a tweet. As an extension of this, we're mindful of the environment for this content too. In the past, our mission was purely about bringing you to GameSpot. These days our job is to bring GameSpot to you. As such, we are creating and adapting content to push to YouTube, through Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ through live services like Twitch.TV and beyond.

You are a vocal, passionate, and articulate bunch, and we want to give you the coverage you crave. We will bring you into the creative process wherever we can, and let your input, and feedback shape our content. The bottom line? You love games, we love games - let's make some awesome stuff.

New GameSpot Podcast incoming: We need your help

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I've been itching to get behind the microphone and do a podcast again for a long time now. I've been at GameSpot for a little over a year, and have been looking for the right opportunity to do something that will serve more of a purpose than just me wanting to scratch that particular, borderline-narcissistic itch. After all, we already have The HotSpot, which has been extremely popular for many years, and has recently been rebooted with Tom Magrino at the helm, so if we're going to do another one, it needs to be for the right reasons.

So...we're going to do a little experiment. We're going to test out a new show(let's call it a "pilot" just in case I completely mess this up and it doesn't work out the way we want it to)after Thanksgiving where the content is entirely dictated by you. You shape the conversation with your comments and questions, you define the content with well-articulated blog posts that we talk about on-air. We want this show to be a reflection and celebration of the GameSpot community. if the concept works, we'll expand upon it in future and see where it takes us. For now, I want to get the ball rolling here and see where it takes us. For this first one, I want to provide a completely open forum and throw some questions back to you guys.

- Do you want us to pick a theme and have you respond? Or do you guys want to throw suggestions at us?

- How do you want to make suggestions? Respond in the comments to a post? In the forums? On Twitter, Facebook, or Google+? All of the above?

- Do you want episodes to have lots of different smaller topics? Or do you want a single theme of discussion where we explore things in a deeper way?

- Do you want a short podcast that's 30 minutes or less? Or something longer?

- What should the show be called?

Change Before You Have To

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Regular readers (and viewers) of GameSpot will have noticed that we've been making a lot of changes lately. We've been tweaking the functionality of our pages, changing the design, and changing our approach to content. This is just the beginning of our metamorphosis, and hopefully you'll continue to notice a lot of things adapt and evolve in the coming months. Some things we'd like to see move more quickly than we're able to execute upon (there are lots of things that we want to do with the site itself, but they're epic, big, complicated engineering projects too difficult and technical for a content dork like me to explain) but believe us; we are paying very close attention to what you're saying in the forums, in your blog posts, and in the comments.

Recently we've also had some changes to our team. Friends and colleagues have moved on, and we're rebuilding our organization to best serve you. As part of that, I wanted to communicate some recent changes to so you know who's doing what around these parts.

The biggest recent move is that Justin Calvert is now Executive Editor (he previoulsy headed up reviews) and reports directly to me. He and Ryan MacDonald are now the two primary content leads and the two of them are helping me work on new ways to create cool content for you all, and I couldn't be happier. Both are awesome chaps, and I'm very pleased to have them as my right hand men. (Can you have multiple right hand men?)Over on the newsdesk, the excellent Brendan Sinclair has been promoted to senior editor in charge of news. Brendan has been a hugely important part of our news engine for a long while now, and this promotion is well-deserved for him.

I can't wait to see what these guys will do in the weeks and months ahead.

We'll have more news about changes between now and the end of the year, but for right now - please join me in congratulating these guys.

If there's content you'd like to see, or you'd like to share your thoughts on how you'd like to see our content evolve, please let me know in the comments, or head over the guys' pages (I've linked them above) and let them know too.

[Gold star to anyone who knows who said the quote I used as the title of this post]

The Controller: Getting it started

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The first episode of The Controller hit the web last Friday, and marked the beginning of a bold new experiment for us here at GameSpot. For a while now, we've spent a lot of time talking to all of you (and folks like you,) and thinking of new ways to approach content about video games. We've been slipping some of these initiatives out very quietly, as we adapt the content we make to the way you consume it (leading with video reviews on the homepage, rather than the written review for example) but this one had to be a big, loud noisy launch. GameSpot has dabbled with reality show-style content in the past, and it's certainly not the first time that anyone has played around with the format in the video game space before (love it or loathe it, The Tester has been pretty successful for Sony) but this was something that we felt could be pretty huge. It brings together a franchise with a lot of buzz around it in the shape of Battlefield 3, an area of gaming culture that is growing in significance at a phenomenal rate (pro gaming,) a modern take on celebrity culture by tapping YouTube personalities (FreddieW has been a wonderful partner in this) and mashes it all together into a media melange that is hopefully both unexpected and entertaining. Of course we realize that not everyone is going to love it, but we hope that it gets people thinking about the kind of content that can be produced that's supplemental to the news, reviews, and walkthroughs that you expect from a video games website. I'm far too old and grey to believe the we could ever produce something that will be universally loved, but it's always nice if a bunch of people like it.

So far, things seem to be going pretty well. As of this writing, 390,000 have watched the video, and it's showing no signs of slowing down. Hopefully everyone that watched the first episode will want to check out epsiode two this coming Friday.

The whole project got off the ground in an unexpected way; it began with a lunch between old friends at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco back in July, and to be completely honest, it was never intended to be on the agenda for discussion. It actually came about when the conversation turned to the notion of games media trying new things and approaching content more like the way a TV network would. It was quite literally busted out as "well, if you want to try something really different, how about this..." Originally dubbed "The Teaching Game," the idea took a number of weeks to gestate before everyone concerned felt comfortable with the concept and the way that we'd distribute it

Creatively, the show owes its existence to the creativity of the folks at Electronic Arts and Bunim/Murray Productions (the folks behind Project Runway, Real World, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and many other shows that lots of us pretend not to watch, but secretly do) who worked incredibly hard to pull everything together in a very short space of time. The treatment for the show - that's the document that outlines everything that will happen over the eight-epsiode run - was pulled together in mid-September, and production began in late September/early October. Homer and Ryan from our team traveled to the Blue Cloud Ranch just north of Los Angeles during filming to capture behind the scenes footage, and filmed more than 17 hours worth of "extras" that are being edited and posted every day during the show's run.

Episodes of The Controller will hit every Friday at 11am PST until December 9. Each week the challenges will get a little crazier, and the drama a little more dramatic. I really hope you enjoy it, and get into it enough to start rooting for specific contestants, and sharing your thoughts on the site, on YouTube, and on Twitter or Facebook. If the show continues to perform as well as it seems to be doing already, it will certainly embolden us to be more experimental with our content as we move into next year.

Let me know what you think - and also, if you have suggestions for shows that you'd like to see, post them here or on Fuse. We're interested in anything and everything right now.

ComicCon and the ultimate triumph of geek culture

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For the past year or two, I've skipped out on attending ComicCon. I've always had a soft spot for it. It's not just that there's a ton of cool stuff on display, or that the panels are fantastic (if sometimes difficult to get into) - what's most important is the audience. The crowd that shows up in San Diego every year are a passionate, loyal, and wonderful bunch that truly love everything about the culture they embrace.

Until recently, this culture has been an easy target for those not into comics, or sci-fi, or fantasy. We were all dismissed as "geeks" or "nerds" and smirked at for our passion, and our willingness to dress up in outfits that are clearly inappropriate for our body types. The tide has changed considerably though. This change hasn't come about because of any individual thing, but in the past four or five years, we've seen some very influential geeks take a hold of the culture, and we've been blessed with actors, directors, producers, game creators, writers, and any number of well-respected entertainment professionals who embrace their own geekdom and unashamedly put it in front of the world for all to see. As this has happened, the businesses around them have noticed something very special happening; we geeks are powerful. We evangelize. We Tweet. We sign up for Google+ before anyone else. We encourage our peers to participate.

Unlike the typical entertainment audience which is fickle and flighty, we nerds have qualities not unlike those of (ironically) jocks. We're loyal. We're passionate. We're deeply invested, and we're more than happy to evangelize about our passion. Whereas jocks are loyal to sports teams, geeks are loyal to franchises or genres. You can't buy the kind of loyalty that a Naruto fan or a Magic the Gathering fan has, but you can embrace it, nurture it, and try to redirect it. Savvy game studios have been doing this for years, but at ComicCon this year (more than just about any other) we're seeing the TV and movie studios show more respect for the ComicCon crowd than ever before. It became particularly noticeable last year when ABC realized that nerds had very strong feelings about Nathan Fillion because of Firefly. "Aha," some bright spark clearly thought. "If they liked him in Firefly, maybe they'll watch him in Castle?" And lo and behold, we did. I know I did. If it wasn't for him, it would have been just another will-they-won't-they girl-meets-boy procedural cop show.

This year at the Con, the mix of pop culture on show runs the gamut from Phineas & Ferb to Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 to Star Wars on Blu Ray and through the horror and fantasy genres before coming all the way back via fan-favorite TV shows like Dexter to new shows like Person of Interest or 2 Broke Girls and games like Twisted Metal and Starhawk. The scope is nothing short of epic.

A friend with strong connections to the "traditional" Hollywood scene told me this year that ComicCon is more important to actors than ever before, because they understand that they need this crowd if they want to build a robust personal brand. As a result they want to be seen to be respecting the audience.

So is this the ultimate triumph of geek culture? Possibly. As Lev Grossman noted in his column in Wired this month when discussing the enormous success of Harry Potter, "he made being a fantasy nerd cool. Or no, that's not quite right. We didn't change. The world changed around us: Harry Potter made everyone a little bit uncool." It's not just Harry Potter though, it's everything connected with sci-fi, fantasy, and the culture around it.

Guitar Hero was something personal

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"Guitar Hero gets the axe," ho ho. The cliches were certainly flowing thick and fast at the news of Activision's cancelation of the Guitar Hero franchise this morning. While the term "RIP Guitar Hero" was a trending topic on Twitter earlier today, it saddened me that the pervasive fondness for a franchise that was so culturally powerful at one point was tainted by disdain for the way its publisher had treated it. When all is said and done, Guitar Hero was important. It spawned a revolution (albeit brief) in the way that the games industry viewed its audience, and it helped break down cultural and generational barriers in ways that few games since Pac-Man or Space Invaders have managed to successfully achieve.

Numerous outlets have already run numerous editorials about the decline of the brand and the destructive nature of Activision's approach to it, so I don't want to bang that same drum here. For me, Guitar Hero's significance was something personal. Over the course of the (guitar-based) music genre's five-year "cycle" I may have switched allegiances to Rock Band in the latter years, but that first release back in 2005 was something truly special. I can remember the impact it had on me and those around me at the time, and while no one believed at the time that it would grow into the titan it became, we all knew it was something unique. When emboldened to comment, I think we all would have stuck our necks out and said it would develop a rabid cult following at best. How little we knew.

Back in my youth I played guitar in a rock band. I had really long hair. I was much thinner. I played long, technically complicated but emotionally vapid guitar solos in front of moderately sized crowds at horrendously rough rock clubs in the north of England. I occasionally wore leather pants, though I never particularly found them comfortable. My girlfriend at the time insisted they were quite becoming, but I never believed her because they were hot, weighed twice as much as a conventional pair of trousers, and constantly felt like the crotch was hanging an inch lower than it should. Anyway... I digress. Bottom line? Between the ages of 16 and 23 if you'd have asked what I really wanted to be, it would have been to be a guitar-shredding rock star.

Clearly that never happened. By the age of 24 my career was taking off, and I just didn't have the time to rock any more. I left the band, and rarely played live in front of a crowd ever again. I still played (and still do) but the dream was gone. I was never going to be the next Nuno Bettencourt, or Yngwie Malmsteen, or...oh I dunno, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai or (test your guitarist geek cred here) Francis Dunnery or Vinnie Moore. Also, it didn't help that long, technically complicated but emotionally vapid guitar solos became spectacularly unfashionable in the mid-90s.

Jump forward 10 years or so though, and Guitar Hero brought all of those old emotions flooding back. That initial release may have come packed with a Gibson SG replica (a guitar I never particularly aspired to own, as I don't like how it looks or feels when holding it) and 30 of the 47 songs may have been covers rather than original recordings, but it was a deeply empowering experience. I still remember the first time I successfully played along to "Iron Man" and the sense of giddiness it inspired.

Guitar Hero (and Rock Band) did far more than help realize teenage fantasies though. It introduced us all to a deep connection with music that nothing had managed to achieve previously. Sure, there had been plenty of rhythm-based music games, but there was something magical about strapping on that guitar and playing along. Not only that, but as later iterations brought more and more varied music into the experience, they became stunning engines for music discovery.

Over the course of the last 20 or 30 years, the way we all discover our tastes in music have changed so much. When I was an early teen, much of my early knowledge game from two places; the older brother of my best friend, who seemed to own every heavy metal album ever released, and a tiny record shop in the town close to where I grew up. I would be told "If you like X you'll love Y" and that was pretty much how my taste was formed. There was no Napster, no Shuffle, no Genius playlist. I would learn riffs by playing over the top of records, much to the annoyance of my parents.

To 16 year-old me, the idea that one day I would be discovering new music by playing it in a videogame would have been beyond comprehension, but here we are 20-something years later, and my iPod is full of tracks that I bought because the first time I heard them was in either Guitar Hero or Rock Band. DragonForce? Avenged Sevenfold? Talk about a resurgence of long, technically complicated but emotionally vapid guitar solos! All music that reminds me of being a teen, and all stuff that I heard for the first time in one of these games.

My own children, now reaching an age where music other than the theme tune to Star Wars is starting to mean something to them, will be able to forge a connection with songs in ways that I never would have been able to imagine when I was a kid. I'll be able to introduce them to classics by playing these songs with them, and in turn they'll be able to express their tastes through an interactive medium rather than just hiding in their room with their earbuds in.

For this, I raise a goblet of rock to Guitar Hero and declare my sadness at its passing.

Fun Before Fitness: Persuading Gamers to get off the couch

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Now that the winners for the forward-leaning "Apps for Healthy Kids" program have been announced, it's clear that there are some huge opportunities for inspiring children with interactive, and specifically video game content. This is something I've been hoping for since I launched What They Play, the family guide to video games way back in 2007. Introduced as part of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign, with the ambitious objective of ending childhood obesity within a generation, the goals for the "Apps..." program were certainly very admirable; build experiences using the USDA nutrition data set, and promote awareness of the benefits of physical activity, caloric intake, lean proteins, and a number of other common sense health concepts that, let's face it, are epic snooze fests for the average 10 year-old.

Judged by a disparate panel of expert judges, including Zynga's Mark Pincus, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and LucasArts' Eric Johnston, the dozen applications that were picked as this year's winners show a tremendous amount of creativity, and between them hint at the potential for a kind of fitness, diet, and social gaming experience that could transform the way kids think about this stuff. However individually they still have a long way to go if we're going to meet the program's objective.

The ongoing challenge, of course, is keeping kids engaged, and in the right way. We all know that our children would happily sit in front of a screen indefinitely if we let them, but limiting their screen time while filling their heads with knowledge is quite a doozy of a task. The problem with many of this first round of healthy kids' apps is that they present their educational objectives front and center, and tackle the challenges set in an academic rather than entertaining way. Sure, they're fun and they're colorful, but they make you feel like you're cramming for a test about food types or the importance of push-ups rather than playing a game. For this stuff to really work in the long term, the focus needs to shift.

Why? The best example I can give is how my own son discovered a talent for math. As the responsible parents we like to believe we are, my wife and I bought educational toys, activity books, and all of the dutiful stuff that you think you're supposed to, but the whole concept only really clicked for him when his love of football and his love of video games collided. Every weekend he and I would play Madden Football on the Wii together, and from this he learned how to think in multiples of six and seven, he learned subtraction and division, while at the same time learning how to destroy his old man with an uncannily keen tactical awareness.

The key, of course, is that we were playing a game in which there was some educational value. What we're seeing in this first round of healthy apps are (mostly) educational applications in which there is some game play. Games winner David Villatoro is definitely on the right track with his Pokémon-like web game Trainer, but the long term prospects for this field are going to depend on a willingness to fully embrace game play and the culture of video games.

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