The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has announced that it is currently working on what may hopefully be the first of many Grand Theft Auto inspired films. While it won't be a work of fiction, much less an actual series or movie based on the contents of any Grand Theft Auto title, it will be a factual drama based on the franchise’s creation and success. The special 90-minute drama will tell the story of the controversial start of what is currently one of the most popular video game franchise around. The most recent game, Grand Theft Auto V, sold $1 billion in its first three days making it the fastest selling entertainment product in history. BBC’s current working title is Game Changer and it will star Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Bill Paxton (Apollo 13) in lead roles as Sam Houser, the creative mind behind GTA with Paxton playing lawyer Jack Thompson who headed the first of many crusades against the game’s release and the entire franchise that would develop from it. The drama will not just focus on the conflict between Jack Thompson and Sam Houser and his team of closely knit developers. Although Jack Thompson sought to have the game banned due to its content, which surely many are already familiar with, the drama will shine light on how close Sam Houser and his brother Dan were to the team that helped them launch this video game giant. Since 1994, Grand Theft Auto attracted attention that the creators perhaps never foresaw, be it all the critical acclaim that has made it so big or the ire of parents and politicians who were frightened by the idea of children playing the game. Giving it its own movie, and on a large network like BBC, shows just how far video games have come and how much they are a part of our culture. Take a look at the full article here.
I came across a really interesting article online about Google's DeepMind artificial intelligence, and it's ability to not only execute tasks, but also to learn. It learned to play video games, but there are countless possible circumstances to which such technology can be applied in the future. Of course, artificial intelligence playing a video is nothing new. If you've ever played a sports or fighting video game alone, you have played against artificial intelligence that itself must recognize certain patterns in order to compete with you in the context of the game. The difference here is that this artificial intelligence was not just programmed to play a certain game, but taught itself to play 49 of them. It appears from the article that these were pretty rudimentary Atari games, not more complex modern day ones, but if AI can learn these, it's just a matter time of time before it can learn more. The key that makes this technology applicable to a multitude of scenarios, both in video games and potentially in the real world, is adaptability. A computer, by now, can be easily programmed to recognize a limited number of potential patterns, but if it can adapt to new situations, it can recognize an unlimited number of patterns. And if it can do that, then the technology can be applied even to the real world, not just a programmed, artificial one. It is apparently not such a far jump from learning to play a few dozen Atari games to a car that can drive itself, interacting with the world and prepared for most or all of the potential situations it could encounter.
I was reading an article today that was discussing how valid it would be to have video games included as a sport in the Olympics. While you may laugh at this prospect, there is a game called League of Legends which has a World Championship event that literally TENS OF MILLIONS of people watch, including a stadium packed with tens of thousands (most of the additional spectators watch online). Now, I suppose the only real question here is, "What constitutes a sport?" because the viewership is obviously there for this to be a mainstream, very highly watched event. A couple of things come to mind. The first is curling. This is an age old Olympic event that most people would be hard pressed to define as an actual sport if actually pressed on the issue. While it is entertaining to watch, as I suspect this League of Legends championship probably is also, it is hard to justify it as an olympic event next to other winter sports like, say, hockey. That being said, there is both physical exertion and skill involved in curling. Then again, they are also involved in difficult video games. I suppose I would say that I don't necessarily think video games should be included in the Olympics. The Olympics are games based on competitions that took place thousands of years ago. And while there have certainly been additions since then (basketball for example, and many others), adding digital forms of competition to the games may really be against the spirit of the games. That being said, I don't see any reason big video game competitions couldn't also be big events in themselves, especially if there are as many people interested in watching them as spectators as there appear to be.
Super Smash Bros for Wii U was released this past week. It's really great to see this video game franchise continue to go strong. This is one of those games that is just plain fun to play. There are several things that are great about Super Smash Bros. First, it is a family friendly game. Sure, it is a fighting game, but unlike games like Mortal Combat and even Street Fighter, it is much more cartoonish and playful. Therefore parents can feel comfortable allowing their children to play it. It is out just in time for the Holiday Season, and so I'm sure it will be a popular gift this year. Another great thing about Super Smash Bros is that it is not one of those Role Playing Games that consumes your entire life like Halo and other similar games. It is one that you can pick up and put down, and revisit whenever. I'm not tying to say that Role Playing Games aren't great. They are. But sometimes a less involved video game is what players are looking for. For years Super Smash Bros has been a great game of this type. Being from Nintendo, this game features all of the classic and beloved characters that fans of this company have come to appreciate over the years. The great thing that Nintendo has done is to create a lot of crossover appeal between the games. And a game like Super Smash Bros in which so many of the Nintendo characters are featured can generate interest in games specifically featuring one of the characters, too. Not only is this a fun game, but also a good marketing strategy.