Rhythm Games: Dead, Alive, or Just Out of Sync?

On February 9, the video game development/production company, Activision, disbanded Guitar Hero’s publishing unit.  In other words, the company that made the Guitar Hero games decided to discontinue the series (Steimer, 2011).  This news sent a shock through the video game industry and, more importantly, the developers of rhythm video games.  With just a quick press release, the party game that we all know and love was no more.  But does this mean that entire genre of rhythm games is going extinct.  Maybe.  Or perhaps rhythm games just need a new direction.  The Guitar Hero series had been around for 6 years.  With over 10 versions of the game, players wanted something new, something different, something revolutionary.  So what could be next?  With the recent demise of the Guitar Hero franchise, things may seem bleak for rhythm video games.  But there are games on the horizon that suggest otherwise.

Dance Central is a game that was released this past November for Xbox 360’s Kinect peripheral.  For those of you who don’t know, Kinect is an additional piece of hardware for the Xbox 360 that allows players to interact with video games “…in extraordinary new ways without using a controller.” (Microsoft, 2011).  In Dance Central¸ players interact with on-screen commands and characters to learn dance moves based on popular songs and music videos.  The song list ranges from the Commodores’ 70s classic “Brick House” to modern hits, such as “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas (Harmonix, 2010).  In addition, extra dance routines and songs can be purchased from Xbox LIVE.

http://www.dancecentral.com/media

Another important, but very different, music video game is Child of Eden.  According to IGN, Child of Eden is an upcoming game for the Xbox 360 that plans to combine rhythm, action, and motion sensor technology (Goldstein, 2010).  While there are very few details about the game at this point, if it can successfully cover all three of these aspects, it could prove to be a very interesting game.  Child of Eden’s predecessor, Rez, had a set soundtrack, but I think it would be great if the developers added the option for players to import their own music.  If that could also be achieved, Child of Eden would be absolutely groundbreaking in terms of video games, music, and motion sensor technology.

http://xbox360.ign.com/dor/objects/14354640/eden/images/child-of-eden-20100927103656143.html

Let’s face it, Dance Central and Child of Eden aren’t completely different from the likes of Guitar Hero.  All three games have music, licensed or not, that the player has to move in rhythm to.  The major difference, however, is the gameplay.  Dance Central requires players to dance with their entire body while Guitar Hero only required the motion of a two hands.  Child of Eden also incorporates the player’s entire body, but requires them to shoot objects to the rhythm of the music.  Guitar Hero, on the other hand, simply required players to press colored buttons at the same time they appeared on the screen.

While the Guitar Hero franchise has ended, other new ones have just begun.  Dance Central, Child of Eden, and other upcoming titles are likely to change the face of rhythm video games for years to come.  And it won’t stop there.  With technology rapidly advancing, who knows what the video game companies will think of next.  Maybe the next generation of rhythm video games will be controlled not just by the player’s body, but also by the player’s mind.  Rhythm games are not dead.  They just need to be re-synched to match public appeal.

References

Goldstein, H. (2010). E3 2010: Child of eden preview. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://uk.xbox360.ign.com/articles/109/1098711p1.html

Harmonix Music Systems. (2010). Dance central songs. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://www.dancecentral.com/songs

Microsoft Corporation. (2011). Kinect. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://www.xbox.com/en-US/kinect

Steimer, K. (2011). Activision axes guitar hero and true crime. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/114/1148687p1.html

Posted in Gaming, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Box Office Blues: A Slow Start for Movie Theaters in 2011

By: Stephen Babcock

TRF 235

2/9/11

Ever since I was a little kid I used to love going to the movies. The whole idea of my parents, my siblings, and I climbing in our car and driving to the local theater was always really exciting and fun. The lights of the building, the sounds of quiet chatter and popcorn popping, I loved everything about it.  As I grew into an adult, I still love going to the movies today. However, it seems that American audiences have a different opinion on going out to the movies.

For the beginning of this year, the movie industry has had its worst start since 1990 (Swaine 1). It is estimated that only seventy nine million film tickets have been sold so far for the month of January, which is the lowest in ten years (Swaine 1). January is usually a slow time in the entertainment industry after the blowout during the holiday season, but this has been worse than previous years. With 2010 also ending on a low note, this could easily be the cause for the slow start in 2011. So far the numbers show that American cinemas have grossed a total of $636.7 million, which is down thirty percent from last January’s profits of $933.9 million (Swaine 1). Movies like The Kings Speech and Black Swan seemed provide a glimmer of hope for the film industry in January but even with twelve Oscar nominations and five Oscar nominations respectively, these two juggernaut films cannot seem to carry the rest of the film industry and the loss of interest in going out to the cinema. There were also only 9 movies released in January compared to the average 14 of 15 in previous years (Gray 1). This hurts ticket sales because if movies are not being released, then no money can be made.

DVD sales and the pirating of movies online is a possible cause for the decline of attendance at the box office. Audiences seem much more content to stay in and watch a DVD or download a movie on their computer than brave the winter weather and hit the nearest multiplex (Swaine 1). With the effortlessness and ease of lying on the couch and never having to jump in the car, who would not want to just stay in and watch movies from home?

Another factor that may cause the decline of sales at the box office is the new boom in 3D televisions and the technology that follows them. 3D televisions offer a whole new feel to the home movie experience. Instead of paying extra at the box office, any consumer can pay for a new 3D television and get a similar experience to a movie theater at home. Companies like RealD, the company behind the 3D glasses and technology at the movie theater, is now partnering up with Samsung to include their technology into the brand’s 3D televisions (Graser 1). This pairing was created in hopes that this would draw more consumers to purchasing 3D TVs. Though sales were low for HDTV/3D TVs last year (around five percent), the brand is hopeful that this will increase the quality in their televisions and also give them a needed edge over competitors (Graser 1). Even the glasses for the 3D TVs are planning to change as well. Samsung and RealD plan on offering 3D glasses to television owners that are similar to the glasses used at the multiplex. These will be cheaper and will be just as effective as their movie theater counterparts (Graser 1). This will eliminate the $150 cost that is associated with the current glasses for the televisions on the market today. With all these advancements being made to the 3D TV technology, this could also be a factor to why the film industry is doing so poorly when it comes to ticket sales.

However, there is some good news for movie theaters in the 3D market. IMAX is having a great new year with the digital re-mastering of its films. According to the IMAX, “the company had a banner year with its digitally remastered films”, taking in a record $546 million for the year, more than twice 2009’s $270 million (IMDb.com).

Even for a movie fan like myself, the box office has a lot to keep up with when competing for my attention. From new TVs to DVD sales and piracy on the rise, it is easy to see why so many people are skipping out on the box office all together. Though the year is still young and IMAX films are doing well in theaters, it will be interesting to watch and see how the film industry handles this year with box office sales.

Works Cited

“2010 A Terrible Year For Movie Attendance.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

3 Jan. 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.imdb.com/news/ni6605376/>.

Graser, Marc. “Samsung, RealD Team up for New 3D Display.” www.variety.com.

Variety, 4 Jan. 2011. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118029740>.

Gray, Brandon. “January Attendance Was a 20-Year Low.” Box Office Mojo. 8 Feb.

2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=3071&p=s.htm>.

Swaine, John. “US Film Industry Has Worst January in 20 Years.” Www.telegraph.co.uk.

30 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-news/8291497/US-film-industry-has-worst-January-in-20-years.html>.

Posted in Film, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Kind of Impact is the Internet Having on The Radio Industry?

By: Jackie Feibus

Ever since the first terrestrial radio broadcast in December of 1906, new technologies have continually emerged that have tried and tested the durability of radio. Radio experienced a period of extreme growth and prosperity in the 1930s and 1940s, with 95% of homes equipped with a radio by 1950 (Dominick et. al, 12). As the world’s most widely available and most listened to form of mass media out there, the notion that it may be fading is a difficult concept to realize. However, radio itself is not really in the decline – it is simply just evolving with new changes in technology. The new millennium brought on the emergence of satellite radio in 2001, which relays digital signal through the use of satellites that can transmit to a much wider geographical area than terrestrial radio, which transmits sound over the air via electromagnetic waves. But even more advanced than satellite is the notion of Internet Radio – being able to stream radio over the web from virtually anywhere in the world, from a multitude of internet-connected devices. The big question is, will this new form of radio cause a downfall in terrestrial radio?

The Internet Radio model is very effective for many reasons. First of all, there are no boundaries as to how far it can transmit audio because it isn’t running through the airwaves – terrestrial radio can only travel about 30-40 miles and satellite can travel over 20,000 miles, but the distance of the Internet is unlimited. There are also much fewer, if any, interruptions to programming by DJs or commercial advertising. The majority of Internet Radio sites make money by sporadic 15-30 second commercials after a few songs have been played, and much of the advertising is displayed via banner ads and mobile ads that don’t take away from listening time. Terrestrial radio often has several minutes of commercials in between songs. Internet Radio is also free, pending the availability of an Internet connection – no costly subscription fees like those necessary for satellite. Additionally, Internet Radio provides the highest possible sound quality, and there is not the hassle of dealing with radio static or frequency loss. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Internet Radio can travel wherever there is an Internet connection. Users can listen from home, in the car through a mobile device, or on a computer from anywhere in the world – the programming is not limited to a specific geographical area (iListening.com).

There are a wide variety of Internet Radio stations available with different features that users can choose from. One of the most popular Internet radio stations is called Pandora, which uses a technology it calls the Music Genome Project, a music information system that classifies songs based on a multitude of distinct characteristics to deliver music based on individuals’ tastes and interests (Pandora Media, Inc.). Another station is called Live 365, which allows users to create their own Internet radio station to reach a global audience. The site has thousands of stations created by the public that cover over 260 genres of music (Live365). A different type of program is Blog Talk Radio, which lets anybody with a telephone and computer host a live Internet talk show and it integrates with social networks to go even deeper into the web radio experience (Blog Talk Radio). There is also Last.fm, a service that lets listeners subscribe to stations and then access them from any Internet-connected device (Last.fm). Aside from these programs, there are countless other stations with similar features such as Slacker, SHOUTcast, Jango, AOL, Radio Tower, Last.fm, Reciva, NPR, Sangean, CBS Radio, and Absolute Radio – the list goes on and on.

You can also purchase Wi-Fi Internet radio players that stream music through aggregators of Internet radio sites. Many of these have a social networking aspect as well that lets users share recommendations and see what their friends are listening to at the same time. These devices are turning radio into more of a social experience (Hardware Zone). Another up and coming technology is in-dashboard car radio systems now available by most automobile manufacturers that use Smartphone and Bluetooth connections to stream online radio. Many of these are partnered with brands such as Pandora and are hands-free and voice controlled to allow for a safe and enjoyable driving and listening experience (Kerry). According to an Arbiton in-car study done in 2009, 38% of drivers are interested in listening to Internet radio in the car (RAB).

One of the reasons that Internet radio is so successful is because it is controlled by the listener, meaning that users of these sites get to decide exactly what they want to listen to. However, this is not as easy as it appears and it can fact be very costly. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 has played a major role in regulating Internet Radio and making sure that proper royalties are paid off. While terrestrial radio stations only have to pay publishing royalties to songwriters when a song is played, Internet radio stations must pay both publishing royalties as well as performance royalties to the artist performing the song (Radio City FM). Pandora states on its website that they monitor every single song that is played so that they can pay these royalties to their respective artists and songwriters (Pandora Media, Inc.). In addition, Internet radio stations also must pay a flat fee to run the station, as well as fees to host the website and domain name.

As for the future of Internet radio, it has yet to make enough of an impact on the industry to replace existing forms of radio, but it is certainly making its way up. In a recent study in April 2010, 22% of people indicated that Internet radio is playing a bigger role in their lives and 53% of people found that streaming songs on demand is the most important feature of Internet radio. Additionally, smartphone users are more likely to use a web-based app to listen to radio on their device than a broadcast service (Audio4Cast). One online radio application, Absolute Radio, has recorded how much of an impact it has had on listeners. In November 2010 alone there were 1.1 million hours of online audio content available and 353,000 hours of mobile listening. It has had a 305% year on year increase in mobile listening and a 40.2% increase in online live streaming as well (Cridland). Furthermore, revenue from Internet is over $500 million a year as of 2006, with even higher figures today (iListening.com). With all this being said, it’s safe to say that Internet radio is definitely going to propose challenges within the radio industry as it continues to grow in size, revenue, and listenership.

Sources:

Absolute Radio. (1993-2011). Absolute Radio. http://www.absoluteradio.co.uk/

Audio4Cast. (2010, April 20). Study: The Future Looks Good For Internet Radio. http://audio4cast.com/2010/04/20/study-the-future-looks-good-for-internet-radio/

Blog Talk Radio. (2011). Blog Talk Radio. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/

Cridland, James. (2010, December 15). Stats: How Absolute Radio is Consumed Online. http://james.cridland.net/blog/stats-how-absolute-radio-is-consumed-online/

Dominick, Joseph R., Messere, Fritz, and Sherman, Barry L. Broadcasting, Cable, the Internet, and Beyond: an Introduction to Modern Electronic Media. 6th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, (2008). Print.

Hardware Zone. (2010, June 16). Logitech Unveils Squeezebox Touch Wi-Fo Music Players. http://www.hardzarezone.com/tech-news/view/46035

iListening.com (2009, June 24). Internet Radio: Encyclopedia. http://ilistening.com/Internet_radio/encyclopedia.htm

Kerry, Brewer. (2011, January 16). New Trend… In Car Radio Streaming! http://brewerkerry.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/in-car-streaming-radio-becoming-the-new-trend.

Last.fm. (2011). Last.fm. http://www.last.fm/

Live365. (1999-2011). Live 365. http://www.live365.com/index.live

Pandora Media, Inc.. (2005-2011). Pandora Internet Radio. http://www.pandora.com/

Radio Advertising Bureau. (2009). Arbitron National In-Car Study. http://www.rab.com/public/adchannel/radiostudies.cfm?type=nm

Radio City FM. (2009, February 19). How the DMCA Affects Internet Radio. http://www.radiocityfm.us/how-the-dmca-affects-internet-radio/

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Video Game Addiction In Teens

Michelle Nemeroff

Professor Merrill Charles

TRF 235 Media Industries Principles and Practices

2 March 2011

Assignment #1

Video Game Addiction In Teens

People are introduced to video games at, most of the time, a very young age.  For some people, playing video games is simply a leisure activity.  For some people it is a hobby, and some people even stop playing video games after a particular age.  However, there are those who do not stop playing video games once they start, which is very common in teenagers.  It becomes an obsession, and can unfortunately become addictive. While video game addiction has not been defined as an actual disease, studies estimate 10-15% of gamers demonstrate symptoms that meet the World Health Organization’s measures for addiction.

Video games are becoming increasingly multifaceted with more realistic characters, better graphics, and more tactical challenges than they used to.  These video game advances in turn, make gaming more addictive.  One who is addicted or the parents of an addicted teen must be able to recognize his/her video game compulsion before being able to help oneself.

Video gaming becomes an addiction when it begins to impede upon a person’s relationships or their objective to achieve specific goals such as succeeding in school or contributing to a sports team.  For teenagers, sometimes life can be a struggle.  As people experience an immense amount of changes physically and emotionally throughout their teenage years, many teenagers find it compelling to enter their own virtual world where they do not have to deal with the challenges of the “real world.”

Video games are designed to be just challenging enough for players to be able to achieve small feats that force them to continue to play.  Game designers are always searching for more ways to make their games more fascinating to increase the amount of time people spend playing them.  In turn, video games are almost designed to be addictive in the sense that designers want players to want to keep playing and buying their games.

There are several details implemented into games with the aim of making them addictive including the high score, in which beating the highest score can keep a player playing for hours.  Other addictive implements in video games include role-playing, which allows the players to create the characters in the game and embark on a journey specific to the character(s) the player creates.  Another is the stimulation of discovery, such as shortcuts or other hidden findings.

Considering video game addiction has not been given an official diagnosis, there are signs to look for to discover and prove of a teen’s gaming fixation.  Symptoms of video game addiction in teens include preoccupation, hiding from negative or uncomfortable feelings or situations, and/or denial.  Also, spending an excessive amount of money on video games or video game-related equipment, feelings of guilt.  Gaming having a negative impact on other areas of life, in which a person may neglect his/her relationships between family and friends, grades dropping, and in extreme cases, neglecting one’s personal hygiene are other symptoms. Teens who are questionably addicted to gaming may only need to demonstrate two or three of these many symptoms to be considered addicted.

Fortunately, for those teens that are addicted, there are methods of treatment to use in order to cure their video game dependence.  A video game addiction should be treated nearly the same way as any other type of addiction.  Like other addicts, gamers often use video games (the substance) in order to avoid the problems in their lives.  Video games offer an especially appealing escape to socially disturbed teenagers who find it intriguing to become engrossed in a world in which they have complete control.  Teens who are addicted to the virtual world may never have had, or have lost the ability to easily and comfortably communicate with people face-to-face.  Since they have spent most of their time in virtual reality, they are extremely uncomfortable dealing with situations in the real world.  Socially awkward or timid teens are more likely to become addicted to video games than those who are actively involved in real world activities such as an afterschool sport or club.

A treatment program or a therapist who specializes in adolescent issues would be a great place to start.  Enrolling in some sort of camp or outside activity will also force a video game addicted teen to step out of his/her comfort zone and be put into a situation where one has no choice but to face reality.  This will allow addicted teens to fill their time with confidence and social skill building activities rather than being infatuated with an imaginary world.  However, it is very important to choose the right program or therapist, so research would be required before devoting oneself to a specific treatment.

Though the dispute as to whether or not gaming addiction is an actual disorder continues, the behavior evidently exists.  As video games continue to advance technologically, they become more addictive, especially for teens that suffer from social awkwardness.  Teens who use video games as an escape from their problems in reality and possess the symptoms of an addicted gamer should recognize their problem and reach out for help whether it be a therapist or a treatment program.  Although video game addiction persistently increases among teens, it is possible to overcome the addiction as long as one is willing to overcome it.  The combination of the inclination some teens have to addictive behaviors and designers deliberately programming addictive games proves that video game addiction is a real issue, in which parents, friends, teachers, etc. should take action to avert and be cautious of.

Bibilography

Rauh, Sherry. “Video Game Addiction.” WebMD. WebMD – Better Information. Better

Health. Web. 14 Feb. 2011. <http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/video-game-addiction-no-fun>.

Seter Wagner, Jennifer. “Addiction to Video Games a Growing Concern – US News

and World Report.” Health News Articles – US News Health. 07 May 2008. Web. 16 Feb. 2011. <http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2008/05/07/addiction-to-video-games-a-growing-concern>.

Tanner, Lindsey. Breaking News, Weather, Business, Health, Entertainment, Sports,

Politics, Travel, Science, Technology, Local, US & World News – Msnbc.com. 22 June 2007. Web. 16 Feb. 2011. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19354827/ns/technology_and_science-games/>.

“Video Game Addiction Article – The Parent Report.” The Parent Report – Parenting

Advice and Community. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.

<http://www.theparentreport.com/articles/video-game-addiction.html>.

“Video Game Addiction.” Video Game Addiction – Internet Gaming Addiction. Web. 16

Feb. 2011. <http://www.video-game-addiction.org/>.

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