teamfight1

The Not-So-Overnight Success of eSports

on Wednesday, Apr. 16th

This story airs on American Public Media’s Marketplace.

Over the past two years, there has been an explosion of interest in competitive online gaming, known as eSports. Professional video game players face off in matches broadcast around the globe, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars in arenas filled with tens of thousands of fans.

At the recent Call of Duty World Championship in Los Angeles, two four-man teams of gamers, their shirts covered in corporate logos, faced off for the top title.

The gamers were observed by a studio audience, which peered into a control room constructed on a gunmetal stage. On the side of that stage sat the play-by-play men, who called the action in suits and ties.

A million dollars in prizes was on the line at the tournament, which was broadcast free online by Major League Gaming, an eSports promoter that’s been around since 2002, when most of America was on dial-up. (more…)

Read the rest

Indie_Van_Game_Jam___Indie_Van_Game_Jam

Indie Van Game Jam Hits The Road with First Episode

on Monday, Apr. 14th

Here’s the pitch: three game developers hop in a van in Austin, Texas and travel to another city to interview some of their heroes. On the way they make a video game inspired by their interviewee’s work.

While in the van.

That’s the premise behind Indie Van Game Jam a documentary web series about indie games that puts the spotlight on a different studio with each episode. The team behind it, Binary Solo, took a stab at raising funds for the project on Kickstarter last year, but when that didn’t work they persevered.

Now the first episode is out in the wild. The first episode, and the first game. Each episode of the series will not only feature the video documentary, but alongside it will release a game from the roving game jam.

Episode one focuses on Chicago’s Rob Lach (Sphere, Pop: Methodology Experiment One) and features the Binary Solo jam It’s Not Me, It’s You. The game is a perspective twisting play on the first-person shooter genre, and is a delightful way to spend a few minutes on a foggy headed Monday.

Here’s to more game jams and vans from the Binary Solo crew.

Read the rest

pikapika

Google Challenges You To Be The Very Best There Ever Was

on Monday, Mar. 31st

Just because everyone else on the Internet has noted it won’t stop me from mentioning it too:

The first of what could be many of Google’s April 1st gags–let’s not call this a prank, since no one is gullible enough to take it seriously–is a mod for the mobile version of Google Maps that turns the app into a Pokemon catching game. The video that announced the game claims that a “strong willed” competitor who can find all 150 Pokemon will earn the right to battle for the job of Google’s own Pokemon Master.

Logging into the latest version of Maps on Android or iOS and tapping the search bar will reveal an option to go to the Pokemon Lab. Said lab just so happens to be located inside the Googleplex, and there are a fair amount of Pokemon nearby.

The pocket monsters, however, are spread out all over the world. I’ve already found Pokemon in France, Ireland, and Antarctica.  In fact I’ve already caught 25 Pokemon, including Pikachu and a Bulbasaur, so you might as well give up now!

On a more serious note: I wonder if this little experiment will prove popular enough that Nintendo decides to make a *real* Pokemon mobile game?

Read the rest

camera_dk2

Backlash to Facebook Buying Virtual Reality Firm Comes Swiftly

on Wednesday, Mar. 26th

A version of this story aired on NPR’s All Things Considered.

When Facebook purchases a company, you can often hear a collective groan go around the internet — “there goes the neighborhood.” The social network’s purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp gave Facebook access to a younger and more global user base.

But the Oculus acquisition is the first time Facebook has bought a high-profile hardware company, one that comes with a pre-exisitng fanbase. Since debuting on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter 18 months ago, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset has been the most talked about device in video games.
(more…)

Read the rest

Facebook Buys Oculus VR…There Goes The Metaverse?

on Tuesday, Mar. 25th

Here’s one that none of us saw coming.

Facebook just bought Oculus VR, creators of the much buzzed about Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. From the Oculus blog:

A few months ago, Mark, Chris, and Cory from the Facebook team came down to visit our office, see the latest demos, and discuss how we could work together to bring our vision to millions of people. As we talked more, we discovered the two teams shared an even deeper vision of creating a new platform for interaction that allows billions of people to connect in a way never before possible.

Today, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve joined forces with Facebook to create the best virtual reality platform in the world.

At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook, a company focused on connecting people, investing in internet access for the world and pushing an open computing platform. But when you consider it more carefully, we’re culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.

My instant reaction: April 1st is a week away, what gives?

(more…)

Read the rest

Erik_outside

Erik Moore, Venture Capitalist, ‘Unapologetically Black’

on Monday, Mar. 17th

Erik Moore’s career in venture capital began with a hot tub.

It sounds like the ultimate Bay Area cliché, perhaps even more vividly so when you hear that the hot tub in question was destined for the downtown building once sought after by flashy former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.

It was 1999, and Tony Hsieh, one of the building’s well-to-do tenants, had just sold his first company to Microsoft. Hsieh wanted to install a Jacuzzi in his penthouse apartment – but it was against policy in the building, where Moore lived, too. After the fellow tenants ran into each other one night, Hsieh drafted Moore onto the homeowner’s association. They got the sought-after hot tub installed, and became friends.

Good enough friends that Moore invested in Hsieh’s company, one called Zappos.

At the time, he told Hsieh, “I’m not sure I have ever heard of a more stupid idea than selling shoes online.” But, deciding that Hsieh’s obvious talents as an entrepreneur outweighed the apparent dead-end nature of the internet service that became Zappos (which was later acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion) Moore made the investment that eventually provided the seed money for his venture capital fund, Base Ventures. (more…)

Read the rest

anaheim-header

Tickets For MLG Championship’s Return To Anaheim Go On Sale

on Friday, Mar. 14th

Over the past few years video games have been growing in popularity as a spectator sport. Millions of gamers watch each other online and thousands show up for live events.

Major League Gaming, which has been in the eSports business for over a decade now, brings its championship tournament back to Anaheim, CA in June and the promoter expects to break last years attendance record of 21,000 fans.

At the moment three game tournaments have been announced: Call of Duty: Ghosts, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, and a returning favorite Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Melee. $135,000 in prizes have been announced for these three championships combined.

Details on the games after the jump.

(more…)

Read the rest

McAfee: Target Data Heist Made Possible By Cybercrime Service Industry

on Monday, Mar. 10th

The latest quarterly report by computer security firm McAfee Labs says that the massive Target data breach occurred with the help of a cybercrime service industry:

That industry allowed the thieves to not only buy custom-made malware for the theft, but also to quickly sell credit card numbers from 40 million shoppers affected by the breach. The thieves sold the numbers through online back-channels that security experts call the “dark web,” the company said.

Every night is service industry night on the Internet, and it’s always nighttime somewhere!

Via CNBC

Read the rest

Reflections on Innovation Past and Present, From SF Designer Yves Behar

on Wednesday, Feb. 26th

When San Francisco designer Yves Behar was 14 years old and living in his native Switzerland, he had a design epiphany, thanks to the Sony Walkman.

An aunt had sent the device to Behar, who’s now the Chief Creative officer of Jawbone, as a gift. He told the crowd at this week’s Launch Festival that for a teenager, being able to carry his music around was revelatory enough, but there was more — the ability to plug in a second headset, allowing him and a girlfriend to create an intimate world, free from adult intervention.

This seeded his philosophy that if you’re treating customers well — emotionally, ergonomically then you’re probably practicing good design. (more…)

Read the rest

YCombinator Founder: “Starting a Startup Hurts”

on Monday, Feb. 24th

The founder of YCombinator is very, very happy that he’ll no longer be running that startup incubator.

That was a recurring theme of Paul Graham’s “Fireside Chat” with Launch founder Jason Calacanis, in which Graham also touched on various lessons from working with more than 600 startups, and being flamed on Twitter for comments about foreign accents and women in tech. (more…)

Read the rest

Corey McCall with the video game controller that measures the level of excitement in the player. Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

These Game Controllers Will (One Day) Read Your Mind

A version of this story airs on NPR/WBUR’s Here & Now.

Sponsors

oculus-crescent-bay-prototype2

Virtual Reality’s Future Hinges on Presence and Patience

There are two reoccurring themes in the reports out of this past weekend’s Oculus Connect developers conference in Hollywood.

ewok_full

The Dumbest Case Against Games Journalists You’ll Ever Hear

WARNING: Contains Opinions.

ifthey

The Good And Bad Memes In #Ferguson Race Conversations

A friend of mine launched a depressing conversation recently, and asked me how much I think he is worth.

amazon-local-register

Amazon Joins Mobile Payment Game, But Have They Lost The Magic Touch?

Once upon a time it seemed that Amazon could have been destined to be that rare company that could do no wrong.

placeholder