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San Francisco, Calif. is stirring this October with two great events. Both events are open to the public and focus on networking, sharing and learning new and innovative development technique. So, if you’re in the area and are trying to break into the industry, in the midst of your own project or just want to hang out with like minded individuals, clear some space on your calendar.

One event is free and one is not so free. So even though you’re a gamer on a budget, you will be able to get out there and mingle for at least one of these.

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Double edge swords can be pretty cool. In experienced hands, they make short, bloody shrift of an enemy and, barring any phallus references, the sword can make the wielder look something of a badass. This ginormous blade with two sides is also a prime, well used metaphor of something which bears opposing qualities. Take, for instance, Siegfried/Nightmare from Soul Calibur.

Now, I’m going to be upfront with you — this article is a bit of a double edged sword itself. By that I mean it is a bit of news, and a bit of commentary, regarding the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) support of the U.S. Congress’s free trade agreements announced this Thursday.

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The clouds we see in the sky come in all shapes and sizes. They can be fluffy, misshapen and flat, lined with silver or rainbows. With the recent announcement of Happy Cloud officially open for business July 18, the cloud gaming space is starting to look just as varied as the sky.

Happy Cloud, similar to OnLive and Gaikai, hosts games on their servers and streams them onto the player’s PC. This saves them from having to wait through long download times. However, unlike with the other cloud gaming services, players are downloading the game as they play and thus winding up with the full title on their PC’s.

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Imagine your right hand got banged up in an accident. Say, you got too friendly with a hammer. The doctor says it’s nothing serious, but, you have to wear a cast for a month. Then, you have to rehabilitate lest it becomes a shrunken and emaciated version of your left hand. She writes you a prescription … to play a modded Street Fighter X Tekken for ten weeks.

You might be thinking, ‘Where do I get a doctor like that?’ At least that’s what I said when I saw the prescription pad mockup. This is one of the concepts put forth by Games For Health, an organization working to bring the video game and health industries together to provide a new kind of therapy to the infirm.

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The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday, in the case of Brown v. EMA, that video games have a rightful place under the protection of the First Amendment. In other words, as the majority of gamers have known from the beginning, video games are free speech just like literature, film and music. The gaming world may know this case better as Schwarzenegger v. EMA, the case’s name back when it was heard in November 2010.

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes 6 years after the controversial law in question, banning retailers from selling so called ‘ultra violent’ games, was passed in the State of California in 2005. The ruling thus overturns the law rendering it null and void.

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Today word got out that Activision will be launching a new subscription based service called Call of Duty Elite in conjunction with the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 this fall. Activision is still trying to determine the right subscription pricing for the service which is said to “provide extra content that isn’t offered on game discs sold in stores, including downloadable map packs.”

Aside from extra content, Elite will also provide gamers with stat tracking tools that analyze their performance and tendencies in game, in hopes of directing the player to guides and tutorials on how to improve. “These can cover things like the best way to employ a certain weapon, pros and cons for their attachments, or how to make the best use of different perks. Video tutorials will also be part of the package.” Read more… »

While E3 still remains an industry and press only event in the physical world, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is partnering with IDG Entertainment/GamePro Media to give gamers virtual access to 2011′s largest gaming expo. Announced Tuesday, the E3 Insider site will give players the ability to see exclusive E3 interviews, previews as well as tour the plethora of exhibitor booths.

ESA senior vice president for communications and industry affairs, Rich Taylor, said, “E3 is the leading computer and video game event in the world. Millions of enthusiasts who want to attend will now be able to have the same incredible experience as the attendees on the exhibit floor.”

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Jonathan Blow (Super Meat Boy, Braid), Chris Hecker (Spy Party, Spore) and Alex Neuse (Bit. Trip Beat, Bit. Trip Runner) touch down May 26 in the UC Santa Cruz Media Theater. The three indie designers will hold an open panel discussion for the college’s Foundations of Interactive Game Design course, or in college speak, CMPS 80K.

The special thing about this panel is that it’s open to the public and free. Aspiring designers and general gamers alike, if you ever wanted to attend a GDC panel but don’t have $200+ to spend, now is your chance to learn the nuts and bolts of meaningful and entertaining game design from tried and true designers.

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Ubisoft’s press release Tuesday revealed the development of PowerUp Heroes, a game that combines the Kinect and your XBox 360 avatar for “the ultimate super power-infused full-body fighting game”. Turn your avatar into a superhero by having him or her don one of twenty super suits. After you defeat an enemy, you take his or her super suite and powers a la Mega Man; and if you’ve made your avatar a digital version of yourself, like I have, it’s as close as you’re going to get to fulfilling a childhood fantasy.

If you enjoyed Kinect Adventures, then this may be up your alley. Albeit, after watching this trailer, I can only hope I don’t look as silly playing the game as they did acting out their mock teen super hero drama. All lightheartedness aside, this exclusive title can very well serve as a sampling of Microsoft’s vision of a predominantly social gaming future.

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The premise is simple: you go to a bar and see a bunch of people playing this cow abduction game on the big screen. They’re using their iPhones, iPads and Androids as controllers, pressing on the screen to abduct, tilting their phones to move. You connect via your mobile device and you’re next in line. Consider it the 2.0 version of putting your quarter up.

Cow Snatchers was just one of several games demoed at D2S Games’ underground event last week. However, the event wasn’t really meant to demo their games more than it was showcase their platform, which is all about playing games socially without the likes of Facebook. As D2S chief visionary officer Donna Bonifield put it, “it’s all about taking people away from Facebook and into face time.” In fact, this event was more about redefining what a social game is. Read more… »

The last news mash-up came like a real bad hangover right after new years. This one is somewhat of a hangover, if you’re the type to drink on a Wednesday (on which I pass no judgment; I’ve been there). Let’s begin, shall we?

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Today independent film studio The Weinstein Company announced that it is launching its own videogame label. Dubbed TWC Games, the new division will work closely with developers and publisher to help create mobile, social, and console games based off of intellectual properties owned by The Weinstein Company and its subsidiarity Dimension Films.

While the press release did not mention any specific titles that TWC has in the works, it did make a point to list off some of it’s popular IPs, such as: Scream, Hellraiser, Scary Movie, and Children of the Corn. Read more… »