We’re Live Streaming PlayStation VR Today At 11am CT

The Playstation VR is almost here, and our own Kyle Hilliard will be playing through the catalog of releases for your amusement, while I’ll be chatting and fielding questions from viewers. We’ll be checking out Batman: Arkham VR, Until Dawn, London Heist, and more, starting at 11am CT.

You can click the banner below to watch the stream on Twitch or Youtube Wednesday, or just tune in using the embedded video below. See you then!

Beta Test We’re Live Streaming PlayStation VR Today At 11am CT

Science-Fiction Weekly – Westworld, The Fate Of Boba Fett

Virtual reality has been touted as the vehicle that will bring us high-level escapism, but in 1973, writer and director Michael Crichton envisioned a more terrifying scenario where advanced robots would be used in different worlds for people dawn a different identity. In his film Westworld, he told a tale of an amusement park designed as an authentically recreated Wild West, a place where people could travel to the past to live out a different life among robot actors so real they could fool the eye. People were encouraged to engage whatever fantasy they saw fit – whether that was settling down with the girl of their dreams on the ranch, or shooting up the town to rob the bank. Everything was allowed, and the world reacted to the scenarios. The one catch; the robot characters could never harm a guest. At the end of each day, no matter what happened, the world would reset, and that day would unfold again, only it would end differently each time, depending on how people altered the script. Crichton, a master of exposing human error, then shows us what happens when the robot A.I. falters.

Crichton’s film was a success, giving way to a sequel called Futureworld, and a TV series continuation called Beyond Westworld. Don’t worry, I had no idea that any of this stuff existed, either. The reason I’m mentioning it today is because HBO has brought Westworld back as a new ongoing series that reboots the story. The first episode launched this weekend, and it’s off to a hell of a start. Equally as fascinating as it is unsettling, this new take on Crichton’s story is a powder keg of a mystery that already looks like it’s on the brink of exploding. The premiere gives us a good look at the future of our world and the advanced technologies within it, but mostly shows us that mankind hasn’t changed at all. The people that come to this Wild West park are the scum of the Earth; so detestable that you feel sympathy for the robot actors. Although we don’t want to see the robots malfunction and rise up, we kind of do when you see who they have to deal with.

Through Westworld, HBO has another hit show on its hands. Westworld‘s debut is the highest viewed new series on HBO since True Detective, watched by more than 3.3 million people. This is one of those shows you won’t want to procrastinate on watching, as I have a feeling it will be a heavily discussed topic in social media channels each week it airs. Reminder: The first month of HBO Now is free, and you don’t need cable to sign up! Before you venture off to do that, take a look at the trailer below.

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I don’t have any significant game news to deliver this month, but I will point out that my review for Gears of War 4 hits this Thursday at 12:01 a.m. PT. Whether you are a fan of the series or not, you’ll want to check out this assessment of the game. I think people will be surprised by this entry for…well…reasons I can’t go into. Gears of War 4 is in the hands of a new creative team, and has been touted as a new saga for this series. Time will tell what that means for Gears fans. I should also point out that the excellent Metroidvania game Axiom Verge is now available on Xbox One. This game was created by just one person (Tom Happ), and is well worth your time if you like those types of gaming experiences. Former Game Informer editor Bryan Vore gave Axiom Verge a 9.25 out of 10, and called it a “stunning love letter to Nintendo’s classic without being a slave to its conventions.”

In other news: When Disney nuked Star Wars’ Expanded Universe to make room for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the future it would bring, I never thought about what this shakeup meant for Boba Fett. In Return of the Jedi, we see him plummet into a sarlacc pit, where theatergoers thought he died. Lucasfilm’s army of writers had a different take on it. In the Expanded Universe, he crawled out of the sarlacc pit without a scratch on him, and became a popular lead for other Star Wars stories in the years that followed.

In Lucasfilm and Disney’s new canon, we haven’t heard a peep about Boba Fett. The book Star Wars: Aftermath, doesn’t mention him by name, but does provide a hint of what may have happened to him. In this story, a rundown Jawa sandcrawler is uncovered, and its cargo contains the remnants of a sail barge, along with a suit of Mandalorian armor that appears to be partially melted. As we learn in the film, a sarlacc pit digests its food over the span of thousands of years (which makes no sense), but the stomach acid does kill its victims quickly, and it apparently did a number on the armor.

Given the planet, and the two items that were uncovered together, there’s no doubt this is Boba Fett’s armor. That was clearly meant to be Jabba’s sail barge that the Jawa’s scavenged. The question that looms large is: Did Boba Fett make it out? This question has become a heated debate in Star Wars circles. Some people say that, since the skeleton isn’t in the armor, Boba Fett must of freed himself of it to escape. I think it instead tells us that the Jawas fished out the body and armor, kept the valuable pieces, and tossed poor Fett’s corpse to the side. I think he’s a goner.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this subject and Westworld in the comments section below. Next week, I’ll have more on Gears of War 4 (the final verdict and video!), and plenty more science-fiction news. Until then, enjoy your week.

Beta Test Science-Fiction Weekly – Westworld, The Fate Of Boba Fett

How Video Games Are Keeping Long-Distance Relationships Alive

In today’s digital world, having a long-distance relationship and staying connected is easier than ever. Couples no longer have to wait extended periods without seeing each others’ faces or knowing the thoughts of their significant other. Thanks to the rise of online and digital platforms in the last two decades, we’re always connected to the world in some way. Electronic messages have replaced snail mail as the preferred method of communication, FaceTime and Skype have made phone calls more intimate, and social media allows us to get a glimpse into people’s lives.

Dating has also undergone a visible transformation, with Tinder and OkCupid becoming common avenues for people to find each other and form romantic relationships, replacing personal ads, group dating, blind dates, and hoping to run into your future partner by chance. Even certain video games, particularly those that stress the importance of online communities, have become matchmakers thanks to in-game chat systems. Believe it or not, gaming is emerging as a tool for countless couples around the globe to stay in touch and keep their relationships together in spite of the distance.

Amanda and Rich are just one of those couples. The two have been married for nearly four years. She lives in Maryland and he lives outside of Reading in the UK – that’s 3,400 miles between the two of them. Except for a brief 10-month window when Amanda was in the UK, they have spent the entirety of their five-year relationship as a long-distance couple due to the their respective careers.

The couple, who met online in 2009, says they owe much of their relationship to video games. Both of them are self-proclaimed gamers, with Amanda bragging about playing the original shareware release of Doom. “I’m not quite that OG,” Rich says somewhat sheepishly. “I jumped in during the PS1 era with Crash Bandicoot.”

Now they use games as a way to spend time together and narrow the gap between them. “When we started dating, I bought my brother’s Xbox 360 so we could play Borderlands,” Amanda says. Now they’re playing Overwatch together as much as they can, as well as Diablo III and Evolve. Occasionally, they also play through single-player games together, with one of them watching the other play the game through Skype, like Dead Space 3 and The Last of Us.

We heard dozens of stories of people using gaming in long-distance relationships as a way to bond just like Amanda and Rich do, but do couples that game together stay together? We investigated the different ways couples are using a beloved hobby like gaming to ease the hardship of a long-distance relationship.

Closing The Gap

In spite of their rising occurrence, the subject of long-distance relationships (LDRs) lacks any digestible, trustworthy source of statistics. The last study of note was conducted in 2005, with numbers that are woefully out of date by this point. The Center For The Study of Long Distance Relationships, perhaps one of the most exhaustive resources dedicated to studying couples miles apart, has since closed. The biggest and growing resource on the subject comes from those who have done the grind and offer their advice online, providing everything from tips to cautionary tales. Outside of that, people in long-distance relationships don’t have much information available to them on the subject, which makes the professional resources that are out there invaluable.

Megan Bearce is a licensed marriage and health therapist who began researching long-distance relationships after her husband started commuting for work. She eventually wrote a book on this called Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart and continues to counsel long-distance couples. She says the evolution of digital technology has resulted in an increase in long-distance relationships as well as ways to maintain such a relationship. “Technology allows people job opportunities they wouldn’t have had 20 years ago,” she says. “But if you apply that to relationships, there’s also like a million more ways to stay connected. One of the couples I interviewed actually has Skype dinners together. Obviously it’s not the same as like reaching over and grabbing their hand or something, but it works for them; it helps them be together doing something that ‘normal’ couples do.”

As far as video games are concerned, Bearce feels they have a lot of potential, especially as a tool to help long-distance couples manage their relationships. “I feel like games would be a good recommendation for therapists to throw into conversation, like, ‘Is that something we can use to help you guys?’ Games aren’t on a lot of therapists’ radar, and I think that’s mostly because a lot of them are just behind on technology.”

Harris O’Malley, a dating coach in geek culture who’s written for The Guardian, Slate, and Wired under the alias Dr. NerdLove, believes games are strong devices for building a sense of unity. “Long-distance relationships are difficult because there’s a physical component that’s missing that makes it hard for couples to feel connected sometimes. The thing that helps make couples make long-distance work is them knowing that there’s going to be an endpoint where it quits being long-distance and becomes more in-person. When that’s not a factor, then the best thing they can do is work on communication, visit each other whenever possible, and spend quality time with each other in whatever ways they can when not together. And gaming can actually be a valuable way of doing that.”

Harris points to Portal 2 and other games that encourage co-op play as being strong tools that encourage team-building. A number of the couples we spoke to listed co-op games Destiny, Overwatch, and Final Fantasy XIV as their mainstays.

Love Games

In search of some games to play with your better half? Here are a few fantastic co-op titles that value teamwork and can be played online.

Portal 2 – Portal 2’s co-op mode is unique because it’s not a retreading of the single-player mode with multiplayer shoehorned in, but instead its own mini-campaign requiring players to work together to solve puzzles and progress. Also, the robots you play as are adorable.

Rocket League – Last year’s surprise sports hit Rocket League captured the interest of players everywhere with its goofy take on soccer and its frantic energy. Playing a few matches against each other makes for a good time.

Borderlands 2 – Shoot and loot. Borderlands has always shined as a co-op experience, and that’s best exemplified in the second game, where you travel across a dangerous planet to stop a mad, masked CEO. As far as date nights go, you could do worse than saving the world with your partner at your side.

World of Warcraft – Beyond being a great way to meet possible romantic partners, World of Warcraft presents a classic, engaging world with plenty of activities to keep folks in long-distance relationships busy when they need a game to play.

Gears of War Remastered – For those who like their shooters grim with biceps stacked on top of biceps, Gears of War is the ultimate game. Want an evening where you and your partner feel like stars in an action movie? Make co-op campaign your go-to.

For Rich and Amanda, Borderlands has a special place in their relationship, giving them an experience they both enjoy sharing. In the video chat windows I view them through during our interview, they both start pointing to various deluxe editions of Borderlands in their respective rooms. There’s an unexpected synchronization to their actions. The series clearly means a great deal to them and they talk about it a lot. “It basically acts like a surrogate when we don’t want to use Skype or Facetime,” Rich says. “We would just get on and play a game together and chat about what we had been doing during the day. It was great. It meant we could actually do something while chatting.”

Continue to Page 2 to find out more about how long-distance couples use video games to find stability.


Beta Test How Video Games Are Keeping Long-Distance Relationships Alive

Westworld Showrunner Inspired By BioShock, Elder Scrolls, And Red Dead

HBO’s latest original show, Westworld, premiered on Sunday. The show’s mysteries already have people talking, and video game fans may feel like they’re being transported into a new open-world RPG. That’s not exactly an accident.

In an interview with Vice, showrunner Jonathan Nolan talks about the video game inspirations that he and fellow showrunner Lisa Joy draw from when shaping Westworld. This includes shout-outs to popular names in gaming like BioWare, Ken Levine, and Rockstar Games. Here’s an excerpt:

I was fascinated by the concept of writing a story in which the protagonists’ actions aren’t part of the story. In games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim,Red Dead Redemption, or the sandbox games that Bioware make, morality is a variable. How do you write a story in which the hero’s moral component exists on a spectrum? That’s a fascinating challenge. I’m also fascinated by how non-player-characters in video games have their own lives. In Skyrim, when you walk into a village, you aren’t necessarily the most important person there. The NPCs have lives that happen whether you’re there or not. I was listening to directors’ commentary from Ken Levine about building Bioshock Infinite and the affection that game developers and designers develop for their characters. It’s a qualitatively different relationship than the one screenwriters have with their characters, because video game characters don’t just recite dialogue—they do s—, and the players interact with them.

If you’re intrigued by Westworld so far, you should read the entire interview for details that stretch beyond the realm of video games.

[Source: Vice]

Beta Test Westworld Showrunner Inspired By BioShock, Elder Scrolls, And Red Dead

Danganronpa Getting Re-Released On PS4

Danganronpa fans didn’t have many choices on where they could play the series for quite some time. Thankfully it seems that predicament is slowly fading as the series gets ported to more platforms. Today fans get another option, as the two main games are heading to PS4.

This collection includes both Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair to help quench that Monokuma fix. One game that’s noticeably absent though is Daganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, the third-person action spin-off, though that might be for the best.

Below you’ll find a brief trailer as well of some screenshots, though this version of the game is still in development.

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Beta Test Danganronpa Getting Re-Released On PS4

Marvel's Iron Fist Coming To Netflix In March

We’ve already seen a little bit of Marvel’s upcoming Iron Fist show on Netflix, but the release date was a mystery. However, Netflix has now revealed when its audience of superhero fans can expect to binge on the latest series.

In the teaser trailer below, we don’t see much except some ominous smoke rising. Then, the date: March 17, 2017. So mark your calendars now – especially if you’ve been enjoying Netflix’s other forays into the marvel universe, like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage.

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Beta Test Marvel’s Iron Fist Coming To Netflix In March

Get 100,000 Credits In Rise Of The Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration comes out on October 11 on PS4, and anyone who plays the game on any platform (also Xbox One, 360, and PC) can get 100,000 in-game credits for free to celebrate the event.

Play Rise of the Tomb Raider (again, on any system) with an internet connection from October 11 through October 18 (11:59 p.m. PST) and you’ll get the credits you can use for Expedition Card Packs. These are modifiers for the game’s modes, from Co-op Endurance mode and Lara’s Nightmare.

For more on the game, check out this previous trailer.

Beta Test Get 100,000 Credits In Rise Of The Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration

Get Your Motor Running: GTA Online's Bikers Update Out Today

A few weeks ago, Rockstar announced a new update for GTA Online, Bikers. Today, the update is live, and you can build up your very own motorcycle club and wreak havoc in and around Los Santos.

A new trailer breaks down some of the activities you and your club can participate in, such as running protection rackets, building a clubhouse, and collecting new bikes and weapons. 

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The update is available today on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC at no cost. As the Lost and Damned showed us, being a biker in GTA ain’t easy. Good luck.

Beta Test Get Your Motor Running: GTA Online’s Bikers Update Out Today

See The Evolutions For Your Starters In Pokémon Sun & Moon

A new trailer for Pokémon Sun and Moon has appeared, detailing the evolutions of the games’ three starter Pokémon, as well as info on the Festival Plaza, Mega Evolutions, and a demo.

Rowlet (grass-flying) becomes Dartrix; Litten (fire) becomes Torracat; And Popplio (water) becomes Brionne.

Apart from these evolutions, the trailer also reveals the Festival Plaza, where you can earn coins for shops by completing other players’ requests. Another addition is Poké Pelago – islands where the Pokémon in your PC box can train and search for treasure.

The games will have a special demo version (October 18), which turns Greninja into Ash-Greninja, who can be brought into the full game.

Pokémon Sun and Moon come out on November 18 for the 3DS.

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For some of the changes coming to Pokémon Sun and Moon, head here.

Beta Test See The Evolutions For Your Starters In Pokémon Sun & Moon

Getting Up-Close With The Xbox One S Gears Of War 4 Console

Gears of War 4 is one of the biggest releases for Xbox One owners in 2016, and to mark the launch, Microsoft is releasing a limited edition 2TB Xbox One S console inspired by the series. The console comes in a striking crimson red and has the iconic skull logo emblazoned across the front where the fan vents are. The console features actual etched scratches in the system to give it a “battle-weathered” look and feel.

The package also includes a custom Xbox One S wireless controller, which features the same look of the console including the color scheme and the etched-in scratches, and a full download of the Ultimate Edition of Gears of War 4 for both Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. This also includes digital copies of Gears of War, Gears of War 2, Gears of War 3, and Gears of War: Judgment through backward compatibility.

With Gears of War 4 hitting next week (or later this week if you’ve pre-ordered the Ultimate Edition of the game), we took a closer look at the new Xbox One S design. The limited edition console releases on October 7 to coincide with the Gears of War 4’s early access period for Ultimate Edition owners. Check out our photo gallery below, and if you want to get a closer look, you can click on any of them to see the high resolution version.

All photos by Game Informer’s Margaret Andrews.

Beta Test Getting Up-Close With The Xbox One S Gears Of War 4 Console