Tuesday Newsday: Mad Max game goes Aussie, Microsoft nearly bought Zynga, and good news regarding gaming’s effects on kids

The Mad Max game will now feature an Australian voice for the title character, due to overwhelming public demand.Video game incarnation of Mad Max will have Australian accent

The upcoming Mad Max video game shown recently at E3 was impressive, not surprising considering it is being made by Avalanche Studios, who made the incredibly fun Just Cause 2. There was one major problem, though: a few people (myself included) were bothered by the lack of Australian voices.

The new game is not tied to any particular film, not even George Miller’s long-delayed Mad Max: Fury Road which is due in cinemas some time next year, so this digital Max is not modelled after any real-world actor. Even so, the Australian flavour of Miller’s original trilogy was a large part of their distinctive charm.

It seems that many people have been voicing their disapproval of the vocal casting, and Avalanche has been listening. Last week, studio founder Christofer Sundberg announced via Twitter that the finished game would give an Australian twang to Max Rockatansky.

The tweet read: “Attn. fans who want Max to have an Aussie accent in #MadMaxGame : It shall be so. We admire your loyalty. You have been heard.” This is great news for long-term fans of the films, who have been waiting decades for a game set in this nasty post-apocalyptic world.

In wake of Mattrick defecting to Zynga, details emerge that Microsoft tried to buy it

One of the bigger news stories of last week (which broke between me writing last week’s news post and it going online – I hate when that happens) was Xbox boss Don Mattrick’s shock move to become the new CEO of social gaming giant Zynga, publisher of online crack such as FarmVille and Words With Friends.

At first it was rumoured to be Mattrick’s punishment for the perceived failure of the Xbox One unveiling, with the main question being whether he jumped or was pushed. As more details have come to light over the past week, however, it has become apparent that he was in negotiations for the new job from at least March 2013, if not earlier.

One of the most interesting tidbits to come out of this was the news that Microsoft had tried to buy Zynga in 2010, on Mattrick’s recommendation. He dreamed of using Zynga’s social gaming clout to revitalise casual multiplayer on Xbox Live, and initiated talks between the two software giants.

The whole thing ended up falling through, but Mattrick reportedly stayed in touch with Zynga founder Marc Pincus, and that they went cycling together regularly. While we will most likely never know for sure, it looks like Mattrick’s departure from Xbox had nothing to do with The Xbox One, but was simply an irresistible job offer ($40 million over three years would tempt almost anyone).

Zynga is currently experiencing its own woes, being forced to lay off staff and close studios and suffering through a drop of income of almost 20% in twelve months and a 66% stock price drop in two years. Hiring Mattrick is almost certainly an attempt to turn this trend around.

Despite its record-breaking Kickstarter, Double Fine has gone broke

Tim Schafer and his studio Double Fine made headlines around the world when their Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to create a new point-and-click adventure game broke records. It raised a staggering $3.3 million from fans eager to see Schafer return to his adventure game roots, and Double Fine subsequently raised another $1.2 million for a different Kickstarter-funded game.

Apparently, though, $4.5 million just wasn’t enough, and Double Fine has run out of money. Schafer has taken personal responsibility, claiming he simply over-designed Broken Age, as the adventure game is now known. He says he crammed too many features into the design, and while his team has been working hard, they have run out of money with the game still unfinished.

After entertaining several options, including another crowdfunding campaign, publisher funding, or simply paying the shortfall out of his own pocket, Double Fine settled on an interesting compromise: the first half of the game will be released in January 2014, and then sales will fund completion of the second half, due in the middle of 2014. Kickstarter backers will still get the entire game as promised, and those buying it in January will get the rest as a free patch when it is released.

it just goes to show that making games is an unpredictable business, and even a veteran like Schafer can promise too much and run out of money.

GTA V: The biggest threat to next-generation consoles?

It’s still months away from release, but some commentators are already speculating that Grand Theft Auto V will damage launch sales for both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Rockstar has so far only announced GTAV for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and noted that PC and Wii U versions are being considered. This means it will be placed firmly in the older generation of games hardware, which is supposed to be about to be superseded by the next.

UK retailers have told MCV UK that GTA V is the star attraction in an exceptionally strong Christmas games line-up for current generation hardware. Even many launch titles for the new consoles, big names like Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV, Battlefield 4, and Call of Duty: Ghosts, are also being released on older hardware.

Retailers now predict that the next-generation launch will be hampered by this strong games line-up, as consumers will see little reason to upgrade to a new console, especially one that can’t play their old games. GTA V is seen as a key title in this trend, as it may provoke gamers to wonder why they need a next-generation console at all.

Of course, GTA V may be coming to PS4 and XB1, but if it is Rockstar is certainly keeping it tightly under wraps.

Two studies announce encouraging findings for parents of children who play games

Games get a bad rap when it comes to the wellbeing of kids. When they’re not being blamed for juvenile delinquency and high school shootings, they are seen as a cause of low academic performance, lessened fitness, and obesity. Two new Australian academic studies have found results that should help concerned parents to feel a little less apprehensive.

A study at Curtin University in Perth measured children’s activity levels depending on whether they were playing traditional controller-based games, more active motion-controlled games, or no games at all.

The results were surprising: in all three cases, the differences were minimal. Even when all video games were banned from the household and children had to find other entertainment, their activity levels barely changed – the differences were only a few minutes per day – and were actually slightly lower than when they had access to active games.

Essentially, this means that access to video games has almost no effect on childrens’ activity levels, and may even be slightly beneficial. Rather than games making children sedentary, it seems that naturally sedentary kids are drawn to games, and their behaviour barely varies when the games are taken away.

The other study was at University of Queensland, and looked at childrens’ social interactions after playing a variety of video games. Children were sat in front of four games classed as “anti-social, violent, non-violent, or pro-social” and then their social response was tested. In a staged scene, a jar full of pens was “accidentally” knocked over, and the researchers noted whether the children volunteered to help pick them up.

The researchers found that even their own predictions were wrong. They thought that playing an actively social game would lead to a measurable increase in real-world pro-social behaviour. Instead, the type of game being played had no effect on behaviour whatsoever, with the researchers concluding, “[W]e fail to substantiate conjecture that playing contemporary violent video games will lead to diminished prosocial behavior.”

In other words, it is yet another study that shows no link between violent games and antisocial behaviour. One wonders why we still have to tolerate politicians and moral crusaders telling us that the link is real and proven without citing any evidence.

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– James “DexX” Dominguez

DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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