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September 12 2011

Commuter’s Delight: 10 Fun iPhone Games You Can Play With One Hand

If you’re one of the millions of people around the world who rely on public transportation to get around, you’re often looking for new ways to kill time. Even if you’re not a gamer at heart, there are a multitude of games available on your iPhone, ranging from the casual to severely geeky.

One catch: many trains cut passengers off from precious data services, restricting their mobile options. Another caveat is that the best games for commuters need to be playable with just one hand, in case you find yourself clinging to any available handlebar space. (Bonus points if you can play these games while balancing your morning coffee — I’m not that good.)

You’ll notice that this list excludes the ubiquitous Angry Birds because I found I can’t achieve perfect trajectory while holding my phone sideways and swiping with one hand. Neither will you find more advanced games, like Cut the Rope, since some stages require multiple fingers for three-star accuracy. However, this list includes games from many different genres, so you’re bound to find something that helps make your morning commute whiz by.

What are your favorite ways to kill time while commuting? Did we miss any of your favorite games? Let us know in the comments.

The Last Rocket

Recently released, The Last Rocket, created by Shaun Inman, is a puzzle game with a cute, retro feel -- probably because your little rocket ship has eyes and ears. The goal is to navigate 64 levels to help the computer AMI collect all her gears that were scattered by a wayward solar flare.

This game is great for a commute because the levels and controls are simple -- you only have the ability to blast off and change directions, but the number of ways it's iterated as you fly past drones and dodge spikes is impressive.

[Download link]

Jetpack Joyride

I'm sorry for introducing you to Jetpack Joyride, because it's iPhone crack. This simple game relies on the rails principle: the screen constantly moves forward, as does the hero, Barry Steakfries, while a simple tap activates his jetpack. Your job is simply to give the jetpack the proper amount of juice as you pick up coins, grab crazy vehicles and wrack up achievements.

This game is the brainchild of hit-maker Halfbrick Studios, which also created Fruit Ninja, a game that sprung from iPhone to Xbox Kinect due to its popularity.

[Download link]

Tiny Wings

For another simple rails game, try Tiny Wings, made by Andreas Illiger, in which you control a little, pudgy bird whose wings are too small to fly. Thankfully, you can shoot up and down hills with lightning speed.

You only need one thumb-tap to make your bird gain momentum to soar to great heights. As a bonus, the style of this game is delightfully whimsical, and feels like the pages of a Dr. Seuss book.

[Download link]

Shape Shift

Shape Shift may look like many other puzzle games you've played, but it has a unique angle. Swap shape blocks with any other matching block on the board to eliminate groups of four or more of the same color. This gets tricky once bombs are added into the game, which you must eliminate before time runs out. It's a time-convenient game you can play for 60 seconds or the whole commute.

Bonus: it's totally free. [Download link]


Now for a puzzle game with a twist: Shibuya. This game, apparently inspired by the neon awnings in one section of Tokyo, has you match bricks of color to eliminate them. Furthermore, you get to assign the color to the blocks before they fall, based on a queue in the top corner of your screen.

It took a couple of tries to learn, but was very fun once I got into it. And if you're able to play with headphones, the soundtrack is wonderful.

[Dowload link]


If you're a fan of trying to take over the world, you need to download Strategery. It involves trying to take over a whole continent populated with monochrome countries, all waiting to be stomped by the Blue army.

The game takes thought and planning, but it only takes one tap to declare war against your neighbors, and you'll find yourself wanting to continue even after you've reached your destination. The game offers a range of difficulty settings as well, so even when you think you've mastered it, you'll have another level to tackle.

[Download link]


If strategy games tickle your fancy, you might want to try geoDefense, a tower defense game in which you'll prepare for an invading army of "creeps" by setting up weaponry along their route. And just when you think you're out of the woods, another, more difficult wave comes at you.

Tower defense games, in general, are great for commutes or long waits because they usually involve simple, drag-and-drop setup, but still have a high level of action. geoDefense was made by Critical Thought Games, which totes it as a "Thinking man's Action Tower Defense" -- and it definitely delivers.

[Download link]


If you want to combine a love of numbers with a love of visual puzzle games, Drop7 will be addictive. The game has been out for a couple of years; it was originally published by area/code, then was purchased by game giant Zynga.

The concept is simple: Drop any of the numbered circles on a grid, and create a row or column containing that number of circles to make it disappear. So, dropping a "5" circle on top of a column of four circles would eliminate that column. There is serious strategy involved though, as you'll soon learn -- making combos of disappearing numbers helps you wrack up the points and keep the board clear. I highly recommend playing in Hardcore mode for the most action, but any of the game's three play modes are just as fun.

[Download link]

Game Dev Story

If I learned anything from Game Dev Story, it's that building video games takes a lot of time and resources, yet all problems can be solved with a helping of Red Bull. Game Dev Story is a simulation of a game development studio, where you have to hire and fire talent, allocate resources, and pick which genres and consoles to develop. It's a complex, extremely addictive game, with a lot of customizable options that will keep you engrossed for a long commute.

It also has many references to real video game history, for those of us geeky enough to recall it. If not, don't worry -- app-makers Kairosoft seem to be cranking out a variety of clever, equally engrossing sim titles for you to wile away the hours.

[Download link]

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

The last game is actually a port from the world of Nintendo DS, but I feel like it is just as successful on the iPhone. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, made by Capcom, has you battling the forces of evil in a courtroom. You control Phoenix, a rookie attorney who, along with having to interrogate witnesses on the stand, has to simultaneously investigate the crimes and win the favor of every underdog in town. The game has five chapters and takes you on a pretty engrossing story, and requires you to actually do a bit mental work along the way.

Did I mention it was also funny? There is the added bonus of getting to make Phoenix yell "Objection!" all the time. This game is five bucks, but will keep you entertained if you stick with it.

[Download link]

More About: games, iphone, Mobile

July 13 2011

5 Trends Shaping the Mobile Gaming Industry

The Consumer Trends Series is supported by GameSpot, giving brands the next level of engagement with gamers through exclusive news, clips, trailers and more. To connect your brands with true enthusiasm, visit CBSInteractive.com/ideal.

Mobile gaming has really taken off in the past few years, and the continued growth of the underlying forces — smartphone sales, tablet sales, mobile Internet subscribers and app downloads — all point to a bright future for the industry.

Market research firm Mintel recently published a report on the U.S. mobile gaming industry — we took a look to glean insight into the consumption of and current attitudes toward mobile gaming.

First off, the numbers are impressive. Mobile phone and tablet gaming sales in the U.S. reached $898 million in 2010, more than doubling since 2005, and Mintel forecasts that revenues will reach $1.6 billion by 2015. This prediction is in line with eMarketer’s report that mobile gaming revenues are expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2014. With increasing smartphone sales, a growing tablet market and increasing advances in mobile device and game development, this industry is sure to get more interesting in the coming years.

Here are five key takeaways from Mintel’s report. Let us know your thoughts on the future of the mobile gaming industry in the comments below.

1. The Freemium Model Has Potential

One of the biggest tasks in marketing a mobile game is to figure out which revenue model to use: free (ad-supported), freemium (free download with in-app purchase options) or paid (one-time fee for a full-featured app).

The report points out that, on average, potential revenue for freemium apps outweighs paid apps. Mintel Senior Analyst Billy Hulkower writes:

“Apple enabled in-app purchases from its app store in the fall of 2009, allowing many developers to utilize the “freemium” model, in which the app is free to the user and the game can be enjoyed as is, or enhanced with additional virtual goods. In-app purchases include additional characters, enhancements, powers, and game play levels. Where a paid game may generate revenue from the sale price of the game from $0.99 to about $2.99 or more, a freemium game can actually earn greater revenues in the long run due to its potential ongoing stream of revenue from in-app purchases. Games tracked across 21 iPhone game makers in June 2010 by market research firm Flurry earned on average $14.66 per user per year. GigaOm estimated in November 2010 that 34% of the top 100 grossing apps (all types) on the iPhone used the freemium model.”

While the freemium model seems great in theory, paid games currently rule the industry, having brought in a whopping 92.5% of U.S. mobile gaming revenue in 2010, according to eMarketer. On the other hand, eMarketer predicts that revenue from free, ad-supported games will only amount to a measly 12.3% by 2014, not a significant growth. With ad-supported games lacking umph in coming years and freemium apps providing a higher potential revenue for publishers, it seems natural that publishers will continue to innovate into the freemium space in hopes of increasing profits. As a result, we may see a balancing out of revenue between paid and freemium apps in coming years.

2. Tablet Gamers Download & Play More

Mintel found that 38% of tablet gamers play five or more hours per week, while only 20% of mobile phone gamers play that much. Tablet gamers even download more paid and free games.

Only 7% of those surveyed reported owning a tablet, but the findings make sense. Tablet devices have larger screen sizes and more computing power, while still being portable, potentially making them a better fit for gaming than mobile devices.

Forrester expects tablet sales will grow from 10.3 million units in 2010 to 44 million units in 2015 — growth that should further drive the mobile gaming market.

For now, console gaming still rules, having captured 75% of gaming revenue in 2011, followed by online, PC and mobile gaming.

3. Users Crave Multiplayer & Social Features

“It is almost a cliché to discuss the importance of integrating social networking components into gaming, but consumers have not lost interest,” writes Hulkower. “They also enjoy multiplayer games for their competitive and social aspects. Despite their digital medium, ‘social’ and ‘multiplayer’ signify human interaction. Young adults, in particular, have grown up with computers, Internet, instant messaging/texting, and Facebook, and want to connect while gaming.”

There have been a few developments in the industry that foretell advances in social features. Apple’s social network gaming platform Game Center, launched in September 2010, enables gamers compete with each other and follow leader boards. Likewise, another platform, OpenFeint, enables iOS and Android gamers to play across platforms.

The success of multiplayer-only games, such as Words With Friends, also points towards consumer interest in mobile gaming with others.

4. Word of Mouth Is the Key Driver for Game Downloads

Mintel’s report highlights a number of stats that tell the story of how users hear about new mobile games. Whether in the physical or digital worlds, word of mouth is the glue that holds it all together. Here are the top ways that gamers hear about new mobile games:

  • From Friends: More than 50% of mobile game-playing adults learn about new mobile games from friends and family.
  • In App Stores: About 40% of adults learn about new games within app stores, where hot lists, rankings and user reviews are highlighted.
  • On Social Sites: 25% of adults hear about new mobile games via social media sites.

Besides these methods, there are also a number of well-trafficked mobile gaming sites that highlight and review games, chronicle new releases and publish cheat codes and tips.

Mobile game firms and publishers should take note and focus on obtaining visible app store distribution, having a social media presence and gaining coverage on mobile gaming sites.

5. Hit Games Can Come From Anywhere

While EA Mobile, GameLoft and Glu Mobile rank highest in mobile game publisher revenue, hundreds of independent game developers have released smash hits. For example, Rovio’s Angry Birds was the most downloaded game in Apple’s App Store in 2010 — in June, the game hit 1 million downloads per day.

While larger publishers, like EA Mobile and GameLoft, leverage high-profile licensing deals and partnerships, upstart developers — such as Popcap Games and Zynga — have built a name for themselves from the ground up, proving that innovative ideas can take smaller development firms far.

Series Supported by GameSpot

The Consumer Trends Series is supported by GameSpot, where brands can go to the next level of engagement with gamers at the #1 gaming info site. To see how GameSpot’s exclusive news, clips, trailers, mobile and more can connect your brands with true enthusiasm — and an audience of up to 230 million — visit CBSInteractive.com/ideal.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, sjlocke; Flickr, leondel

More About: Consumer Trends Series, gaming, Mobile 2.0, mobile gaming

For more Mobile coverage:

July 06 2011

7 Winning Examples of Game Mechanics in Action

Gabe Zichermann is the author of the books Game-Based Marketing (Wiley, now available) and Funware in Action (Manning, Q3/2010). He is also the CEO of professional mobile social networking startup beamME and frequently muses about games and the world at funwareblog.com.

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems. In other words, it means taking the best lessons from games like FarmVille, World of Warcraft and Angry Birds, and using them in business. Whether targeted at customers or employees, across industries as diverse as technology, health care, education, consumer products, entertainment and travel, gamification’s impact can already be felt.

While some have criticized the concept of gamification as shallow or demeaning, the initial findings from gamification specialists are nothing short of astonishing. Regardless of your business model, the following seven gamified innovations should inspire you to strategize via game analysis.

1. Make a Market: Foursquare

The first incarnation of the location-based networking field was littered with carnage, leading many to write off the entire concept. But Foursquare’s founders, veterans of the now defunct Dodgeball, succeeded with an ace in the hole: game mechanics. Exposed to the concept while working at Area/Code (Zynga’s recently acquired New York City-based game design shop), Dennis and Naveen concluded that mobile social networking would work if you were to change the dynamic from multiplayer to single player.

Instead of depending on the action of the crowd to provide intrinsic reinforcement (e.g. “Hey, you’re around the corner. Let’s grab a beer!”), Foursquare overcame the empty bar problem by becoming a single-player game. The user competes for badges and mayorships whether or not anyone is there to meet him. In the process, Foursquare proved that location-based networking wasn’t doomed to fail, that simple game mechanics can affect behavior, and that you can engage 10 million customers — all while raising $50 million.

2. Get Fit: NextJump

When you listen to NextJump CEO Charlie Kim describe his zeal for physical fitness, you immediately understand the energy that has propelled this interactive marketing platform into one of the nation’s fastest growing businesses. But keeping fit isn’t just Kim’s personal goal — he told me it’s also a practice he believes his employees should value as a tool for improving their lives, reducing company insurance costs and preventing employee absenteeism. To achieve those goals, NextJump installed gyms in its offices, and built a custom application that enabled employees to check in to each workout. Ultimately, they rewarded the top performers with a cash prize. After implementation, around 12% of the company’s staff began a regular workout regimen.

But Kim wasn’t satisfied. By leveraging the power of gamification, he retooled the fitness “game” to become a team sport. Now NextJump employees could form regionally based teams, check in to workouts and see their team performance on a leaderboard. Leveraging the game themes of tribalism and competition had an astonishing effect on behavior. Today, 70% of NextJump employees exercise regularly — enough to save the company millions in work attendance and insurance costs over the medium term — all the while making the workplace healthier and happier.

3. Slow Down and Smell the Money: Kevin Richardson

In many countries, speed cameras snare thousands of drivers each year — a quick shutter flash earns a miserable ticket in the mailbox. In some countries, particularly in Scandinavia, ticket amounts correspond with the driver’s salary, rather than his speed. But Kevin Richardson, game designer at MTV’s San Francisco office, re-imagined the experience using game thinking.

His innovative Speed Camera Lottery idea rewards those drivers who obey the posted limit by entering them into a lottery. The compliant drivers then split the proceeds generated from speeders. Richardson used gamification concepts to turn an negative reinforcement system into a positive, incremental experience.

When tested at a checkpoint in Stockholm, average driver speed was reduced by 20%. If the plan were scaled across the U.S., the results could mean thousands fewer injuries, millions of dollars worth of reduced costs and substantial environmental benefits.

4. Generate Ad Revenues: Psych & NBC/Universal.

Psych is a popular program on the USA Network, but these days, creating value for TV advertisers means connecting to the web and social media in creative ways. Enter Club Psych, the online brand platform for the show, and among the first major media platforms to get gamified.

The brainchild of NBC/Universal executive Jesse Redniss, Club Psych implemented gamified incentives to raise page views by over 130% and return visits by 40%. The resulting rise in engagement has generated substantial revenue for the company, bringing registered user counts from 400,000 to nearly 3 million since the launch of the gamified version. The media conglomerate has since embraced the strategy across properties, bringing gamification to ratings leaders like Top Chef and the The Real Housewives.

Other content publishers, like Playboy, have seen similar results. Their Miss Social Facebook app has achieved an 85% re-engagement rate and 60% monthly revenue growth with gamification.

5. Make Research & Evangelism Count: Crowdtap

Getting product feedback is a costly and challenging effort. Therefore, most marketers have come to loathe ineffective surveys and expensive focus groups. Enter Crowdtap, the hot New York City startup launched earlier this year that reached $1 million in revenue and 100,000 users in just over 90 days. The company offers consumers gamified rewards to complete research tasks and to share brand advocacy with others — something mere market research simply cannot do.

Through the use of gamified, virtual rewards, the company has been able to raise average user participation by 2.5 times, thus reducing research costs by 80% or more for key clients. By targeting consumer rewards along a motivational (not demographic) axis, CEO Brandon Evans reports that competition-oriented users are four times more likely to create quality comments and 12 times more likely to refer others to the platform. Instead of competing against the system, they challenge themselves and peers to excel — an extraordinary achievement by any measure.

6. Save the Planet: RecycleBank

Modern life is wasteful, and easy fixes are rare. By tapping into people’s desire for reward and competition through gamified experiences, governments, utilities and entrepreneurial powerhouses are rewriting the rules of sustainability — and making the world a better place.

In a Medford, MA pilot program, households competed in an energy smackdown in which the winning family managed to lower its carbon footprint by 63%. In a program called Putnam RISE, Indiana families are making thousands of pledges to reduce power usage through a competition. The schools whose families conserve the most energy receive a cash prize. And across the country, incentives experts at Recyclebank are using the power of gamification to radically improve home environmental compliance. So far, they’ve utilized game mechanics such as points, challenges and rewards to drive breakthroughs. For example, the project has seen a 16% increase in recycling in Philadelphia, where the recycling rate has broken 20% for the first time in history.

7. Make Teaching Fun: Ananth Pai

As former globetrotting business executive turned elementary school teacher, Ananth Pai has seen it all. But when he inherited his class in White Bear Lake, MN, Pai realized there had to be a better, more engaging way to teach. So he grouped students by learning style, and retooled the curriculum to make use of off-the-shelf games (both edutainment and entertainment) to teach reading, math and other subjects. Students play on Nintendo DS and PCs, both single and multiplayer, for example. Their overall point scores are tabulated and shared using leaderboards.

In the space of 18 weeks, Mr. Pai’s class went from below third grade average reading and math levels to mid-fourth grade. The classroom success is supported by video interviews with his kids, who say “Learning with Mr. Pai is fun and social.”

In addition to these seven great tips, dozens more success stories pour in each week, underscoring the tremendous investment of time and money into gamification. Gartner Group estimates that by 2015, 70% of the Forbes Global 2000 will be using gamified apps, and M2 Research forecasts that U.S. companies alone will spend $1.6 billion on gamification products and services by that same year.

Gamification spans the gamut — from the hundreds of startups that launch with game mechanics incorporated into their products, to the big brands that make gamification a hallmark strategy. Regardless, the message is the same: the future will be more connected, more social and more fun than ever before.

More About: competition, foursquare, game mechanics, games, gamification, incentives, social media

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

June 10 2011

Top 3 Gaming Trends From E3 2011

Technology expert Scott Steinberg is the CEO of high-tech consulting firm TechSavvy Global and a frequent tech analyst and gaming expert for ABC, CBS and CNN. He’s covered the field for more than 400 outlets from NPR to Rolling Stone, is the founder of GameExec Magazine and hosts the video series Game Theory, hailed as “the smartest take on the video game industry.”

Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual video game convention better known as E3, isn’t just the top place to go to watch scantily-clad nymphs, armored stormtroopers and bespectacled businessmen awkwardly mingle. The industry-only event, which drew more than 46,800 rabid enthusiasts to the Los Angeles Convention Center this past week, also offers experts and everyday fans alike the clearest snapshot of where the future of gaming is headed.

This year’s event played host to the introduction of Nintendo’s new Wii U system (featuring 6.2-inch touchscreen controllers), Sony’s supercharged PlayStation Vita portable handheld and the arrival of YouTube and Bing on the Xbox 360. For better or worse, it also cemented what the coming years hold for gaming fans and pros — a roller coaster ride of unprecedented proportions.

Setting all the flashing lights, booming speakers and catchy ad libs by gaming execs aside, here are the event’s main attractions and the revelations they portend.

1. Traditional Gaming and Retail Aren’t Going Away

Despite all the hype surrounding the growth of mobile, social, online, digital, massively multiplayer and free-to-play games, blockbuster disc-based retail releases continue to enjoy a massive fan following. Garnering big interest from both the press and public, potential smashes in the making (and packaged goods) such as Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3, Uncharted 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and BioShock Infinite aren’t a dying breed. Rather, the focus at retail — a distribution channel which, while dwindling, isn’t going away overnight, and should enjoy a considerable presence for the coming decade — is switching to ultra-premium.

Translation: With review scores, competition and overall quality levels climbing, what we’re seeing is a shift to bigger, higher production value games with more expansive solo adventures or multiplayer components. In order to keep pace and justify the $60 price of entry, average and nondescript games are quickly falling by the wayside and being replaced by best-in-class hits. That’s generally good for all parties involved, especially players. It means better titles across the board, including those that begin — not end — at what’s in the box and offer more for your gaming dollar.

2. Motion Control Accessories Are Maturing

Both Sony with its PlayStation Move and Microsoft with the Kinect are doing everything in their power to illustrate why these accessories, thus far confined to largely casual and social applications, are worth the time of “hardcore” gamers. That means incorporating voice commands into Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier so you can simply say “optimize for range” to instantly generate a custom weapon, or making it possible to cast spells with a wave of your hand in the fantasy role-player Fable: The Journey.

But more telling than actual gaming applications (e.g. playing air guitar or lopping off goblins’ heads with a simulated sword swipe) are the vistas these control methods open up for home entertainment. We’re as happy as the next geek that you can chat with aliens by reading off voice prompts in Mass Effect 3. But options to pull up Rebecca Black videos or search for new game demos just by saying “Bing Gears of War 3” feel very promising. It’s the kind of functionality that reaches far beyond standard gaming circles and into general interest digital media consumption.

3. Innovation Is Dead — Unless You Know Where to Look

Most game companies are currently pooping a joystick, as it’s nearly impossible to forecast future sales or predict how to make hits in an era where everything from play habits to the platforms and devices themselves are changing at a breakneck pace. Slow to adapt to the innovations of social, online and free-to-play games, most publishers are reacting the only way they know how: by doubling down on proven brands, franchises, sequels and spin-offs, or spending to acquire well-known Hollywood, TV and comic book licenses.

As such, two outcomes are inevitable. One: Expect to see more familiar franchises returning, receiving reboots or being resurrected in fresh forms year after year (hello Halo 4 and Tomb Raider). In the hopes of mitigating risk, everything old truly becomes new again. And two: Publishers will need to become leaner in more agile in the face of mounting and diverse competition. Staff will be cut, more versatile developers will be hired, and past business strategies will be shuttered as game houses struggle to turn around sinking battleships in the era of light watercraft. That’s not to say doom and gloom is in the air — rather, that insiders have been slow to adapt to innovations they’ve long known were coming, and there’s still some pain to go through before we fully reach the next level.

We’ll close with the biggest gaming trend of all — one that no one seems to want to talk about at a very blockbuster-focused conference like E3. As Internet connectivity continues to proliferate, bandwidth increases, mobile devices boom and the quality, sophistication and availability of on-demand gaming improves, the humble web browser — increasingly available on smartphones, tablets, PCs, TVs, consoles and other devices — may soon become the most popular, and ubiquitous, video game system of all.

More About: e3, gaming, kinect, microsoft, Nintendo, playstation, PlayStation Vita, sony, video games, Wii U

For more Media coverage:

June 05 2011

April 21 2011

March 20 2011

March 04 2011

March 01 2011

6 Mobile Games That Beat Playing On A Console

The Social Gaming Development Series is supported by Level 3 Communications, an international provider of fiber-based communications services. Level 3 is committed to carrying digital media from anywhere to anywhere, in whatever format needed.

The kinds of games available on your mobile device have come a long way. A decade and a half ago, the state of the art was Snake, the game that came pre-loaded on Nokia phones. Serious gamers didn’t consider that to be in the same league as any cartridge they could pick up for their Nintendo or Sega consoles (or what was then the upstart new device, the Sony PlayStation).

Fast-forward to 2011, and mobile games are kicking console games to the curb all over the planet — for a fraction of the cost. The winners of the 7th Annual International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA), announced at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, are some of the most innovative and fun games on any device. Here’s why.

1. AR Invaders: The World Is Your Game Board

AR Invaders, a $0.99 iPhone app from Israel-based Soulbit, won IMGA’s “Best Real World Game” award. “AR,” in case you hadn’t guessed, stands for Augmented Reality — the Invaders are flying saucers. That means you can stand in your back yard, in the street, or wherever you are and zap aliens that “appear” all around you via the iPhone’s camera-enabled screen (see above). You can play in 360 degree-mode (if you’re standing up) or 180-degree mode (for when you’re sitting down). There’s so much arm-raising involved — the saucers often appear right above you — that it could be considered a workout.

Better yet, you can play with friends. AR Invaders is one of the first AR games to feature a multiplayer mode, allowing you to share the joyous conspiracy of blasting invisible green men and not be declared insane.

2. Papa Sangre: Think Sound, Not Vision

The first piece of advice you get in the horror game Papa Sangre: wear headphones. That’s because Papa Sangre, which won the IMGA’s “Most Innovative Game” award, is based entirely on soundscapes. You’re dropped into the wind-blasted land of the dead, where you tap on the bottom of the screen slowly with your thumbs to walk around the multi-directional soundscape. Tap faster to run — which is something you’ll want to do when you hear knives slashing or creatures growling or hideous laughter following you. Given the amount this terrifying game raises your heart rate, it could be considered exercise, too — and at $4.99, it’s cheaper than a gym membership.

3. Beyond Ynth: Is That An Arcade In Your Pocket?

Beyond Ynth is a platform game with an incredible 80 levels — giving you weeks if not months of playtime for just $1.99. You play the role of a bug who has to push a box around a landscape by navigating the maze inside the box. Puzzles within puzzles, in other words, and all of them quite addictive. No wonder it won both the IMGA’s “Excellence in Gameplay” and “Grand Prix” awards. It’s like an entire string of arcade classics condensed into a single game.

4. Snowboard Hero: No Complicated Controllers

If you’ve ever wrestled with a D-pad or tried to remember where the triangle and square buttons are, you know that most console controllers are complicated devices. It can take hours of gameplay to map the buttons in your muscle memory, and newbies are left feeling pretty dumb. In a phone-based title like Snowboard Hero, which won “Best Sports Game” at the IMGA, there’s no such barrier to entry. Tilt the phone left to tilt your snowboard left. Flick forward on the screen to go faster. Do tricks intuitively (if not exactly easily). What could be easier on the eyes and thumbs? Only the price tag: it’s free.

5. Infinity Blade: The Graphics Are Just As Good

Check out a title like Infinity Blade, winner of the IMGA’s “Excellence In Design” award, and you’ll understand why console games are losing their appeal. The graphics in this sword-fighting game are as gorgeous as anything you’ll see on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation3. The multi-generational story of revenge down the ages is appealing, but it’s the lifelike glints on the armor and the dark Gothic cathedral backgrounds that make Infinity Blade a winner. Sure, you could pay $60 and see this kind of thing on your giant HD screen at home. Or you could pay $5.99 to see it at the same relative size — remember, you don’t hold a TV in front of your face — and play it anywhere. Your choice.

6. Plants vs. Zombies: Pick Up And Play

Console games are a time commitment. Pop in the disk, wait for the load screen, watch a series of company logos, sit through an opening video — this isn’t something you can do in five minutes between meetings. Help a bunch of plants defeat a zombie invasion? That you can do, in small increments. So-called “tower defense games” — where you place or upgrade your defense devices then see if they were enough to defeat your enemies — have been around for decades, but Plants vs. Zombies ($2.99), winner of the IMGA’s “Best Casual Game” award, is one of the most colorful and original examples of the genre. One level of helping flowers spray their killer seeds on cartoonish gray creatures of the undead will have you hooked. Just try not to be giggling too much when the boss walks in for your next meeting.

Series Supported by Level 3

The Social Gaming Development Series is supported by Level 3 Communications, an international provider of fiber-based communications services. Level 3 is committed to carrying digital media from anywhere to anywhere, in whatever format needed. Its services can connect content from creation to consumption, over one of the world’s most scalable end-to-end networks.

More Gaming Resources from Mashable:

- The Influence of Social Gaming on Consoles
- 5 Top Social Games and Why They’re So Successful
- How One Startup Aims to Revolutionize Online Gaming [INVITES]
- Why Video Games Are Scoring Big for Social Good
- The 5 Biggest Video Game Flops of All Time [COMIC]

More About: iPhone games, mobile games, mobile gaming, Mobile World Congress, MWC2011, Social Gaming Development Series

For more Mobile coverage:

February 15 2011

5 Top Social Games and Why They’re So Successful

The Social Gaming Development Series is supported by Level 3 Communications, an international provider of fiber-based communications services. Level 3 is committed to carrying digital media from anywhere to anywhere, in whatever format needed.

Around 68.7 million Americans will be playing social games by 2012, according to analysis firm eMarketer. A number like that might seem unreal, but it makes perfect sense. There’s something extraordinarily appealing about logging into Facebook or picking up your smartphone and instantly playing a game alongside countless other people across the world.

But why do the best social games work so well? How do they manage to connect us in ways we wouldn’t have thought possible just ten years ago? Let’s look at five of the most popular social games and try to figure out why they’re hits.

1. FarmVille

FarmVille is doing a lot of things right, really — that’s why close to 10% of all Facebook users play FarmVille. But one of the most ingenious mechanics in Zynga’s farm simulation game is the neighbor system. It’s easy enough to harvest crops and build up your farm alone, but when you do it with your Facebook friends, your productivity skyrockets exponentially. And if you’ve ever hopped onto your news feed only to be subjected to a deluge of FarmVille updates, you know just how tempting it can be to click around and see what the fuss is all about.

Either this is a metaphor for real farms, where workers have to cooperate to stay alive, or it’s just a ploy to get people to recruit one another so Zynga can harvest all of your money. The gaming company has used the social promotion lessons it learned from FarmVille to launch CityVille last year, which has already become the most popular game on Facebook with almost 100 million users (twice that of FarmVille).

2. Zuma Blitz

PopCap’s addictive ball matching game is fun to play in both short and long doses, but its real strength lies in its scoreboard. As you go about your business in Zuma’s Incan temple, you’ll see a set of rankings on the right side of your screen. Those rankings are constantly updated with your friends’ high scores, allowing you to talk smack as you compete with one another for slot number one. It’s a brilliant, simple, and effective technique that keeps players hooked for one simple reason: Bragging rights.

3. Words With Friends

Imagine if Scrabble was available on your phone 24/7. Now imagine that instead of playing against a computerized opponent, you could compete with any of your friends whenever you wanted, picking when to play each word at your own personal discretion. That’s Words With Friends.

Scrabble has always been immensely popular, so it’s easy to see why online Scrabble is just as lauded. Words With Friends works because it successfully emulates a classic game that everybody already understands — no need to worry about learning complicated new rules or devising intricate strategies. It’s just Scrabble!

4. Mafia Wars

Between The Godfather, The Sopranos, Goodfellas, and the countless other mob stories that have been both critically and commercially acclaimed over the years, it’s not hard to see why a game like Mafia Wars works. Though this Facebook mob simulator — which lets you recruit friends and form your own criminal organization — can’t be fairly compared to any of those classic pieces of pop culture, it’s certainly an impressive game that you can sink way too much time into. Teaming up with your buddies in order to fight mobsters, perform “jobs,” and pretend to be criminals is way more fun than it should be.

5. World of Warcraft

Sure, when you think World of Warcraft, you might picture the nerdier set — those who may have sacrificed hygiene and sleep to reach one more experience level. But the truth is that WoW is populated with players of all sorts of backgrounds, from rural housewives to NFL punters. The game currently boasts over 12 million subscribers, mostly because of its social capabilities. Instead of just fighting monsters or leveling up a character by yourself, you get to do it with thousands of other players and interact with them in many different ways ranging from personal e-mails to public online chats.

Most strikingly, World of Warcraft allows you to live a veritable second life. Girls can pretend to be boys; boys can pretend to be girls; human accountants can pretend to be elven mages. You can make friends and enemies, form relationships and even take on an entirely new persona. For better or worse, some people enjoy socializing on WoW more than real life, which may make it the most powerful social game out there. Oh, and Mila Kunis plays it, which might be a good reason to start.

Series Supported by Level 3

The Social Gaming Development Series is supported by Level 3 Communications, an international provider of fiber-based communications services. Level 3 is committed to carrying digital media from anywhere to anywhere, in whatever format needed. Its services can connect content from creation to consumption, over one of the world’s most scalable end-to-end networks.

More Social Gaming Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Predictions for Game Mechanics in 2011
- 4 Misconceptions About Marketing in Social Games
- 6 Emerging Social Games Taking the Web by Storm
- HOW TO: Advertise Inside Social Games on Facebook

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rubenhi

More About: farmville, Mafia Wars, social gaming, Social Gaming Development Series, words with friends, world of warcraft, zuma blitz

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January 11 2011

5 Clever iPhone Accessories That Make Gaming More Fun

With thousands of great games in the App Store, there’s no doubt that the iPhone is a pretty nifty handheld gaming device in its own right. But that’s not to say the fun levels can’t be upped with some ace accessories.

Whether you want the feel of a real wheel for driving games, improved grip for fierce fragging action, or fun with some novelty docks, there are peripherals out there that can improve your experience.

See below for our selection of five fun add-ons for the iPhone and iPod touch that will enhance your iGaming. Don’t forget to shout out any gaming accessories you enjoy with your iDevice in the comments.

1. iPhone Pinball Magic

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a pinball wizard, then this novelty dock will be right up your alley. With a working ball-launching plunger and flipper buttons, the free companion Pinball Magic app offers several board layouts and game modes. As an added bonus, you can actually charge and sync your iPhone via USB when it’s connected.

Cost: $39.99

2. iSound GameWheel

Whether it’s Need for Speed Hot Pursuit or Cro-Mag Rally you’re racing on, you may find you perform better with a real wheel. The iSound GameWheel boasts an easy-to-use snap-in design and its rubberized grip will help you corner like you’re on rails.

Cost: $19.99

3. SportGrip Gamer for iPod Touch 4G

Created for the “serious gaming enthusiast,” the SportGrip Gamer case is tailor-made for the iPod touch 4G. The case features two loops on the back that can be pulled outward so that your fingers can hook through them, giving you a better grip and freeing up your thumbs for some hardcore handheld gaming action.

Cost: $24.99

4. Psyclone Thumbies

These are aimed at anyone who feels like they’re not really gaming unless their thumbs are hitting buttons. The Thumbies suction onto your iPhone’s screen where the virtual buttons in games are located and give you a more tactile experience.

Cost: $19.99

5. iPhone Jackpot Slots

In addition to charging your iPhone, this fun docking station will turn an iPhone into a working one-armed bandit that plays one of five different games thanks to the free companion Jackpot Slots app. As with the real deal, you pull the handle down to play. Just don’t expect any nickels to come pouring out — there’s no app for that just yet.

Cost: $39.99

COMING SOON: Mophie Pulse

Just announced at CES 2011, iPod touch owners should look out for the Mophie Pulse, as it promises to give your portable gaming real kick. Besides boosting the audio, the Pulse will add some haptic feedback (vibration buzz generated from sound) to your gameplay, making gaming on the touch even more immersive.

Cost: TBD (reports suggest approx $100)

More iPhone Resources from Mashable

- 4 Frighteningly Fun Zombie iPhone Games
- 3 Innovative iPad Games That Use the iPhone as a Controller
- 10 Classic PC Games That Found New Life on the iPhone
- 5 Awesome Arcade Games for the iPhone
- Top 10 Free iPhone Word Games

More About: apple, gaming, iphone, iphone accessories, iPhone games, List, Lists, mobile games, video games

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December 07 2010

5 Fantastic Web Games We Can’t Stop Playing

The Digital Entertainment Series is supported by the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, the seriously entertaining smartphone that knows how to have fun. Check it out here.

Web Games Image

It’s officially freezing outside, and you cannot be faulted for wanting to stay in — unless of course, you’re on the West Coast or at Mashable SF.

For the rest of our audience, the holiday season also brings those winter doldrums. To help you get through, we’ve picked five web games that are sure to keep you happily busy. Some are innovative; some will make you think, or even re-think what a “game” is; and others are just plain fun for whiling away a couple hours with a cup of hot chocolate.

Read on for our picks and let us know in the comments which web games are keeping you busy, or which games we should be keeping an eye on for the future.

1. Ninja Saga

This game probably isn’t going to break the creativity meter, but it’s had a steady presence on the top Facebook games list month-to-month and has earned a spot on the fastest growing list as well. The game has you, a ninja, searching for the five guardians of different kages, or clans, based on the elements. You can train your avatar, recruit — or fight against — other players, and customize yourself with skills and gear.

Sure the plot is a little overblown, but it’s nice to see a web game with an actual narrative arc as opposed to objective-based, or PVP driven story lines. Best of all, new content including skills, missions, and challenges are added on a fairly regular basis. Kapow.

2. Pet Society

Pets are awesome. Unfortunately you need to actually take care of them in order for both of you to get something out of the relationship. Slackers, rejoice. Pet Society offers a cavity-sweet take on having a pet if that pet could also go shopping and own its own pets, called “petlings.” More a fuzzy avatar than a full-blown pet simulation, Pet Society has been a top game on Facebook for some time with a healthy base of active users to interact with.

If you liked the cuteness of FarmVille but could go without all that farming stuff, or if you ever wondered how you’d look (or behave) as a dog, Pet Society has a full suite of activities and options to keep you busy and wagging your tail.

3. CityVille

CityVille is the most recent game from FarmVille creator Zynga. While there is an odd amount of web games with the suffix -Ville, this one does manage to stand out, a little bit. While CityVille offers many of the same lures (character customization, social network integration and emphasis on cooperation and skill-sharing) as other sandbox games, CityVille is also interesting as a vehicle to keep FarmVille, its predecessor, relevant. The web game giant has been losing active users of late, and its graphics engine is starting to show its age.

CityVille has boosted its graphics in 3D, while offering many of the same activities in an urban (although still adorable) context. This includes farming. Essentially, FarmVille is a sub-section of the larger play mechanics in CityVille, complete with a built-in invitation system for your FarmVille friends.

4. Clock Blocks

Yes, we get the wordplay in the title. And yes, it actually makes sense with the game. Clock Blocks comes as a web game or an iPhone app and tasks the player to clear the screen of a set of rotating clock hands. By clicking, you have to send a small dot from one clock to another without completing a full rotation. It takes about 10 seconds to figure out how to play and it grows on you.

Despite its Inception-worthy tag line, “Align Your Mind,” Clock Blocks probably isn’t going to teach you much about how clocks work or provide any type of necessary information — it is, however, strangely addictive with a nice, clean aesthetic. It’s also nice that 80d Games, the team behind Clock Blocks, provided a web-version of its largely mobile offering. Hone your skills on the eight levels or tackle the “Quest Mode” for more of a challenge. Happy spinning.

5. Sleep is Death

Sleep is Death doesn’t come packaged with the most inviting name, compared to other choices on this list. It is, however, one game — and one game designer — to keep an eye on. From the mind of Jason Rohrer, Sleep is Death is as open-ended and customizable as games come. One player acts as a director, creating an environment out of crude, 8-bit models, that another player willingly jumps into. The two take turns sharing the same screen. Each player gets 30 seconds to type dialogue or move about the environment. That’s it.

Skeptical? It’s hard not to be, but some of the examples and flipbooks (essentially just screenshots) of player interactions show a game that can register and inspire real emotion and create sometimes silly, often strangely poignant stories. Rohrer, first known for his five-minute life simulator Passage, has built a reputation for bizarre, addictive, beautiful games. Clock Blocks this is not, but for the right crowd Sleep is Death is a sleeper hit.

Series Supported by Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10

The Digital Entertainment Series is supported by the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, the seriously entertaining smartphone that knows how to have fun. Check it out here.

More Gaming Resources from Mashable:

- 6 Emerging Social Games Taking the Web by Storm
- Minecraft: How Social Media Spawned a Gaming Sensation
- 10 iPad Games Worth Paying For
- How Social Gaming is Improving Education
- “FarmVille” vs. Real Farms [INFOGRAPHIC]

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, bo1982

More About: casual games, cityville, clock blocks, facebook, facebook games, game, gaming, jason rohrer, ninja saga, passage, Pet Society, sleep is death, social games, video games, web games

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November 19 2010

Cracking the Mainstream: Why Social Gaming Is More Than Just a Fad

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Ravi Mehta is vice president of product for Viximo, where he drives the product strategy for Viximo’s social game distribution platform and helps social networks monetize via social games and virtual goods. For more information on virtual goods, visit his blog, Virtual Goods Insider, and follow him on Twitter.

Since taking off in 2009, the social gaming phenomenon has drawn hundreds of millions of players, but it has also found more than its fair share of critics. Many claim that social games are too shallow and simplistic to attract a sustainable audience, while others assert that a free-to-play business model leaves too much money on the table to support the development of social games that compare favorably to traditional games. Some believe that the biggest threat to social games is the force that gave life to them in the first place — the fate of the industry seems inextricably linked to the ebb and flow of the Facebook platform, and Facebook’s wavering commitment to developers does little to inspire confidence.

All this has led social gaming’s biggest critics to suggest that social games are a flash in the pan that will eventually be subsumed into the rest of the online game industry. But social games are far more than a fleeting fad or a watered down version of “real” games. Just as social distribution has led to new forms of written media (i.e. the tweet) and new forms of video media (i.e. YouTube video), it has led to a disruptive form of gaming that plays an essential role in the way that people engage with the web.

Social gaming is here to stay, and it’s here to stay for two fundamental reasons: 1.) The format of social games is a perfect match to the daily pattern and rhythm of how people use the social web, and 2.) Social games are the only form of interactive entertainment that are natively woven into and distributed via social networks — the Internet’s new gateway.

Form Follows Function

Throughout the history of entertainment media, content has been developed in short and long formats. Five hundred page novels, full-length feature films and television mini-series coexist harmoniously with blogs, 30-minute sitcoms and two-minute YouTube videos. Why? Because each format serves a different purpose and, without subsuming the other formats, manages to engage users in unique ways and for different reasons.

Short-format show Seinfeld ran for nine seasons and generated hundreds more viewing hours than the typical 90-minute comedy movie, while the 56-second “Charlie Bit My Finger” video on YouTube has been viewed for the equivalent of nearly 4 million hours since it went viral in 2007. In many ways, the social game is to gaming what YouTube is to video: A shorter format that has been enabled by new, social forms of distribution and is no less compelling or permanent than longer-form content. This type of gaming simply enables different behaviors and attracts different users than subscription MMOs, free-to-play MMOs and casual games; but this deviation from the traditional model does not guarantee its demise. Instead, social gaming represents an adaptation to new social norms; a typical social networker’s day is punctuated by periodic visits, and social games are designed to fit perfectly into these short bursts of activity where a user may spend just a few minutes catching up on the latest wall posts, browsing tweets, and tending to his or her digital farm.

In addition, it’s worth noting that long-format content and short-format content have very different price sensitivities. People who are willing to pay $10 to watch a two-hour Steve Carell movie in the theater aren’t necessarily willing to spend $2.99 to buy a 30-minute episode of The Office. Social games leverage the perfect combination of cheap, viral distribution with a free-to-play model that allows 1 to 3% of the most active users to subsidize the game experience for the other users. This is a great mass-market model that requires fundamentally different content than traditional games.

Social Games are Woven Into the New Web

Every month, 75% of worldwide Internet users log into social networks or visit blogs. For many users, Facebook has replaced Google as their point of entry to the web. Although keyword search was once the dominant way that users discovered news, information, products and entertainment, users are increasingly turning to social media channels to find the content that has the most personal relevance. Social games are the only form of gaming that are natively tied into and distributed via social media, and social games have been brilliantly adapted to leverage the viral distribution opportunities afforded by social networks.

This disruption in distribution is evident both in the massive uptake of social games on sites such as Facebook, as well as the decline of casual content portals, such as MSN Games, which don’t have the benefit of social distribution. Users are increasingly gravitating away from content portals to social networks. Entertainment activities are always more enjoyable in groups (that’s why we like to watch movies with friends), so when players have the option to go to one site, get a game recommendation from and play with a friend on that site –- while also exchanging status updates and photos — the single player format on content portals begins to rapidly lose its appeal. Content sites lack the social context and tools necessary to drive revenue and usage from virtual goods and social games. The numbers support this; earlier in the year, Yahoo Games, MSN Games and AOL Games saw a combined 14% drop in monthly traffic worldwide, and an 11% drop in U.S. visitors during that same period (Source: Comscore, January vs. May 2010). This might explain Zynga’s decision to pull FarmVille from MSN.

However, social distribution is not without its challenges. Facebook walks a fine line between its desires to preserve the core social networking experience while addressing the viral distribution needs of game developers. Although this dependence on the whim of Facebook may seem like the Achilles Heel of the social gaming industry, significant opportunity exists beyond Facebook’s blue and white walls.

Today, Facebook generates a majority of social gaming revenue and gets much of the press, but the site only represents 30% of the global social networking audience. The social networks that comprise the other 70% of users have found that social gaming is an intrinsically valuable part of the social networking experience, not a feature particular to Facebook. Networks such as hi5, Orkut, Tuenti, and StudiVZ are fostering the virality, discoverability, adoption, and monetization necessary for social games. If game developers tap into this audience and broaden their distribution beyond Facebook, they have the opportunity to go where no casual game has gone before –- plugging into sites with a native social graph where gaming is a more meaningful activity, but without fierce Facebook-level competition, high user acquisition costs and limitations on viral growth. If Facebook continues to take steps to curb the proliferation of social games, those games and their players will sprout up on more fertile ground.

The Takeaway

Darwinian evolution suggests that the species that survives isn’t the strongest or most intelligent — it’s that which is most adaptable to change. Although social gaming has thus far taken the form of basic simulation games, changes are coming and a new generation of games is already beginning to take shape. Social gaming 2.0 will move beyond the same formula perpetuated over a variety of themes from farm, pet and fish, to café, bakery and bar.

Newer titles are drawing more from the history of gaming and showcasing more creative gameplay, stronger social features and potential for higher monetization. For example, Nightclub City has incorporated high quality music into the game, which engages a crowd in a different way, while Car Town is incorporating licensed brands that connect gameplay to real-world touchstones. These new games, combined with new modes of social distribution, are clear indicators that social gaming has the strength to innovate, adapt to change, and become a permanent fixture in the diverse cosmos of the game industry.

More Gaming Resources from Mashable:

- 6 Emerging Social Games Taking the Web by Storm
- 4 Frighteningly Fun Zombie iPhone Games
- 5 Great Games for Learning Stock Market Strategy
- 3 Innovative iPad Games That Use the iPhone as a Controller
- 5 Free Ways to Improve Your Typing Skills Online

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rubenhi

More About: facebook, farmville, gaming, social gaming, social media, social networks, video games, viral, web games, youtube

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October 29 2010

4 Frighteningly Fun Zombie iPhone Games

Here at Mashable we love a good zombie. The grosser, the better. We imagine a few of you out there feel the same way, so we’ve scoured the App Store to find the best zombie-themed casual games available.

Zombies have proven to be fantastic fodder for casual games — there’s no remorse for killing them as they’re already undead, and they’re generally slow enough that you have a chance to implode a few heads before they get too close to have your brains for dinner.

Just in time for Halloween, here are five games (that aren’t the superb Plants vs. Zombies) that make killing the undead super-fun for the whole family. Check them out and let us know your favorites in the comments below.

1. Zombieville USA

“Excellent practice for when the REAL zombie apocalypse occurs.”

The story line is paper-thin, but when a game is as colorful and fun as this, the plot doesn’t really matter. Basically, there’s been some kind of zombie invasion and you’re just strolling the streets, picking up cash and ammo and wasting some undead along the way.

There’s a great “how to play” walk-through in both the “Lite” version (which is basically the first level, with a few control limitations) and the full version that will get you started without too much fuss.

A side-scroller reminiscent of classic arcade games with cartoon graphics, Zombieville USA lets you choose to play as one of a number of (clichéd) characters. Each character has his own strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll find your favorite as you try them out.

Controls are simple: Use the arrows to move, hit buttons (or the screen) to attack. The mechanics are easy — head through the levels entering houses to collect ammo or cash as you go. As you collect cash you can buy up to 15 alternative weapons (as well as med packs) to slay zombies more effectively at the level breaks.

While simple in principle, you can soon get chomped on by zombies if you haven’t killed them, and it’s often hard to free yourself from their grip, at which point you’ll find yourself back at the start screen. We recommend beginning the game on “easy” until you get the hang of it.

The gameplay can be a little repetitive until you get to later levels, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with different types of zombies to blow away, vehicles to transport you in your zombie fighting, and even the odd survivor that will be your combat buddy — until they get killed.

Gore Rating:

This is cartoon-violence only, but there is lots of blood; the zombies’ heads explode as they “die” and some great sound effects (blood-curdling screams, a grandiose pipe organ and some really gory fleshy sounds) add to the atmosphere.

Developer: Mika Mobile
Free iPhone Game: Zombieville USA Lite
iPhone Game: Zombieville USA, Cost: $1.99
iPad Game: Zombieville USA HD, Cost: $1.99

2. Zombie Wonderland

“More action! More madness! More zombie guts to clean up!”

“Keep the zombies at bay in this frantic action game.” You control Chuck, an ordinary guy with a shotgun trying to help his neighbors in Niceville defend their properties from invading zombie masses. In addition to killing zombies, it’s your job to clean up any green zombie goo that gets spilled in the various gameplay locations.

If you thrive under pressure, this game is for you. With impressive three-dimensional, top-down gameplay (so you can swipe the screen to spin the perspective — great for spotting zombies at a distance) your job is basically to point-and-shoot at all zombies to get Chuck racing over to the nearest window to blow their rotten brains out.

Meanwhile, you need to be thinking about cleaning up that zombie goo with a mop and bucket, boarding up windows, trying not to get your limbs chewed off, and prioritizing the dispatch of “flamies,” “grannies” and “meanies” over the more typical “greenies.”

This is a highly addictive, fast and furious game, which means you really need to stay on top of all your tasks to do well and progress to the different areas in “story” play, or stay alive as long as you can in “survival” mode.

Gore Rating:

Unless you count small cartoon zombies exploding into piles of green goo, this isn’t really that gory. And the sound effects are more fun than frightening. Nothing to scare the horses here, but plenty of fast, fun gameplay.

Developer: Chillingo/Xoobis
iPhone Game: Zombie Wonderland, Cost: $0.99
iPad Game: Zombie Wonderland, Cost: $0.99

3. Zombie Smash

“Smash them until they’re un-undead with creative zombie demolition.”

It’s classic castle defense. You are defending a house from various undead types, but this is an extremely knowing, self-aware, funny “survival comedy” zombie game that uses different methods of gameplay to smash zombies into bits.

We can’t praise this game enough, especially considering its $0.99 price tag. There are various ways to play: campaign mode, in which you try and defend the house for 31 nights, and “endless siege,” which functions as a survival mode.

Gameplay is both fun and funny. You start out by flicking the undead around until they smash into zombie body parts (great for stress relief), progress to shooting them, and then you can enjoy dropping all kinds of heavy objects on their rotting zombie heads. By collecting the stars that float up when a zombie bites the dust, you can “buy” extra objects to enhance the gameplay further.

The game is full of fun extras such as “Easter mode,” which will give some of your zombies rabbit ears, slow motion recording of zombie deaths, and the nice ability to easily grab in-game screenshots and e-mail them to friends.

Gore Rating:

Both the in-game and the title graphics are great (iPad owners should petition the developer for an HD treatment, in our opinion) and the music, composed by game score expert Chris Huelsbeck, is brilliant.

The zombie splats are really quite remarkable, thanks to the “sophisticated rag doll physics” that “produce unique and hysterical zombie deaths” as well as the “proprietary SplatterEngine™” that “renders adorable cartoon blood and gore in a convincing and entertaining fashion,” according to the blurb. We concur!

Developer: Gamedoctors
iPhone Game: ZombieSmash, Cost: $0.99

4. Zombie Highway

“It’s just you and your heavily armed passenger against a boatload of super-strong, leaping zombies.”

As the developer says, “Cars. Guns. Zombies. What more could you want?” You’re driving along a post-apocalyptic highway that’s overrun by zombies intent on tipping over your vehicle, which would lead to your inevitable death. To get the zombies off your car, you either have to knock them over by driving close to stationery objects, or shoot the hell out of them from the back seat.

In the “classic” game mode, you control the car’s direction with the accelerometer, leaving your fingers free to touch the screen to fire off your weapons. This combo works well; it’s enough of a challenge to try and steer your car close to various objects to send the zombies flying, but not so much that you can’t blow a few away at the same time.

As you progress through the game, you can collect better weapons (which you can switch in-game as you see fit or as ammo runs low) and see different types of zombies as the obstacles on the road become more of a challenge.

You can also opt to play with no weapons, in which case it’s just down to your driving skills to get the zombies off your car, and then there’s the “hardcore” mode to unlock too.

Gore Rating:

As primarily a driving game, it’s not mega-detailed, but the zombies are what you might call anatomically correct, in the sense that they aren’t cartoonish. We like the realistic sound effects and the lack of music actually works well with the desolate environment.

Developer: Renderpaz
iPhone Game: Zombie Highway, Cost: $0.99

More iPhone Resources from Mashable:

- 3 Innovative iPad Games That Use the iPhone as a Controller
- 5 Awesome Arcade Games for the iPhone
- 10 Free iPhone Apps To Learn A New Skill In 10 Minutes
- Top 10 Free iPhone Word Games
- 60+ Free Classic Tabletop Games for the iPhone

More About: app store, apple, games, gaming, Halloween, iphone, iphone apps, iPhone games, List, Lists, Mobile 2.0, mobile games, mobile gaming, video games, zombies

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October 19 2010

Today’s Top Gaming Releases: “Fallout: New Vegas,” “DJ Hero 2,” “Vanquish”

Every Tuesday, the majority of each week’s retail video games hit store shelves. PlayStation Network game downloads arrive that day, and many Xbox Live downloads hit the following Wednesday. We’ll be taking a closer look at the releases each week, so let’s get started.

Fallout: New Vegas (360, PC, PS3)

The biggest launch this week is arguably Fallout: New Vegas for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows. The game will have you waging war, solving mysteries, and struggling for survival in a post-apocalyptic Mojave Desert and Las Vegas. It’s the latest in a highly acclaimed franchise, but its strict adherence to its predecessor Fallout 3’s formula might turn off gamers who want something fresh.

DJ Hero 2 (360, PS3, Wii)

DJ Hero 2, a DJ’s spin on the Guitar Hero series of music games (turntable controller included), also launched today. You’ll find that one on Nintendo Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Vanquish (360, PS3)

Finally, a rare attempt at starting a new franchise: Sega’s Vanquish has arrived for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The action shooter is in some ways an attempt by Japanese developers to tailor to the Western games market, which has become an increasingly tough crowd in recent years because its audience has gravitated toward Call of Duty-like first-person shooters.

Japanese developers aren’t known for their prowess in the now-saturated genre, so we’ll see how Vanquish fares.

Other Releases

Another triple-A release on the Xbox 360 and PC: Arcania: Gothic IV. We’re skeptical of the game publisher’s decision to launch this game — which has much the same audience as Fallout: New Vegas, albeit much smaller — on the same day as the Fallout follow-up. The Gothic series has a small and loyal following, but most of the sales for this title will occur after Fallout players have had their fill of the post-apocalypse.

Wii gamers will get Dragon’s Lair Trilogy, a remake of some arcade classics. They’ll also receive two new Sesame Street games for kids, NBA 2K11 and a re-release of the Super Nintendo role-playing game Final Fantasy Mystic Quest.

Xbox 360 and PS3 gamers can check out Power Gig: Rise of the Six String if they’re not tired of music games already.

What games will you pick up today? Let us know in the comments.

Reviews: Windows, dj hero

More About: dj hero 2, fallout new vegas, gaming, nintendo wii, pc, playstation 3, tuesday game releases, vanquish, video games, Windows, Xbox 360

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October 10 2010

5 Groundbreaking Mobile Games That Debuted This Year [Mashable Awards]

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As part of the upcoming Mashable Awards, we’re taking a closer look at each of the nomination categories. This is “Best Mobile Game.” Be sure to nominate your favorites and join us for the Gala in Las Vegas! Sponsorships are available. Please contact sponsorships@mashable.com for more information.

Mobile gaming has matured more in the past year than in almost any year before, thanks in no small part to the propagation of the iPhone and smartphones running Google’s powerful Android operating system. Even as some mobile games have become more sophisticated than most of their predecessors, others have used the available technology to make simple amusement that much more engaging.

These five games launched in the past year and each made a noteworthy contribution to the exploding scene of mobile games. We recommend giving each of them a whirl if you’re interested in seeing how quickly gaming-on-the-go is changing.

It was difficult to narrow this down to just a few titles, and this is by no means a complete list of must-have mobile games, but each one we picked represents a different kind of extraordinary forward movement for the medium.

1. Fruit Ninja (iOS, Android)

A true ninja will appreciate the brilliant zen simplicity of Fruit Ninja, a game that challenges its players to accurately slice flying pieces of fruit using their fingertips like a sword. Occasionally a bomb pops up to threaten your fruity killing spree, and you’re given bonuses for executing dextrous tasks like slicing multiple fruits at once. And that’s really all there is to it. The presentation is both clever and clean; there’s a whimsicality to the whole thing. It has, to put it plainly, the mojo.

It’s perfect for a mobile device that you only pick up when you’re waiting in line or for some other reason looking to kill about 90 seconds. For many phone gamers, that’s all that’s needed or even wanted.

Mobile phones could bring video games to audiences who’ve never before played them so it’s fascinating to see what catches on. While Fruit Ninja may not be a hardcore tactical shooter like much of the console game market, its success speaks to a new audience of gamers. Give it a couple more years and we’ll find out for sure just what gamers want to play.

2. Pocket Legends (iOS)

Before smartphones, massively multiplayer gaming on the go was a pipe dream. Not even the game consoles have done a very good job of getting it right — you really needed a keyboard, mouse and computer screen to share a virtual world with thousands of friends.

Pocket Legends breaks the cycle; it’s the first 3D, massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG, or just MMO) to achieve considerable success. Is it World of Warcraft? Not quite. But it’s superior to many browser-based casual MMOs, and it’s free to play — at least at first.

Pocket Legends uses what MMO developers call “microtransactions” to keep the bills paid. You can download and play the game for free, but you’re constantly offered minor upgrades — new dungeons, new options and so on — for small amounts like $0.99 or $1.99.

Purists who prefer hardcore, subscription-based MMOs will scoff, but this is where the industry is going, and Pocket Legends is riding the wave. The game also demonstrates the potential of mobile devices as play-anywhere social gaming platforms, and that’s an exciting prospect.

3. N.O.V.A. (iOS, Android, webOS)

Traditional or hardcore video game players like to point to Gameloft’s first-person shooter N.O.V.A. as the definitive example of what they believe mobile gaming should be. That impulse is understandable. N.O.V.A. is as close as you’ll get today to playing Halo on your smartphone or iPod.

In addition to a space marine-filled storyline with dramatic set pieces and epic firefights set in varied environments, N.O.V.A. features a multiplayer deathmatch mode that stands up to the shooters PC gamers enjoyed ten years ago. You can play on the Internet or locally with friends using Wi-Fi. 3G isn’t supported.

There’s only one mode — the standard deathmatch — and the game ships with only rudimentary ranking and matchmaking features, with no Game Center support on iOS. Another shooter called Archetype has arguably outdone N.OV.A.’s multiplayer component since it hit the market, but with its unrivaled polish and single-player experience, N.O.V.A. has the complete, hardcore gamer-friendly package in a way that no other smartphone shooter does.

Its critical and financial success demonstrates that the iPhone, and possibly Android, are a viable platform for traditional games.

4. Epic Citadel (iOS)

You will not believe how beautiful this game is and once you see its beauty, you won’t believe that it’s happening on your phone. To be fair, Epic Citadel is only barely a game. It’s first and foremost a tech demo for Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, which has been ported to the iPhone, and which will also reach Android phones before too long.

The Unreal Engine is behind the 3D graphics in popular console and PC games like Mass Effect, Gears of War and BioShock — visual powerhouses even when pitted against the most technologically showy titles on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Its adaptation for the iOS devices has gone off without a hitch, and Epic Citadel is the first result. It’s a gorgeous digital fantasy world. Unfortunately, since it’s a just tech demo there’s not much to do in the “game.”

Nevertheless, it may be indicative of the future of mobile gaming. Few people imagined that a presentation like this would ever be possible on a mobile phone. Those who doubted it were proven wrong, and since iPhone and Android developers will soon have the option to license the Unreal Engine for their games, we’re going to see even more evidence of that in the future.

5. Angry Birds (iOS, Android, webOS, Nokia N900)

Angry Birds is neither innovative in its design nor groundbreaking in any technical sense. Its biggest contribution (apart from sheer fun) is the absolute certainty that mobile games at alluring prices can sell millions of copies and generate astonishing revenue.

Angry Birds is the number one iPhone and iPod touch game in Apple’s App Store in the “popular” and “highest grossing” categories. It’s slowly introducing itself to Android users, too. The game has sold at least 6.5 million copies to date. It’s usually priced at $0.99, but even at that price we’re talking about substantial revenue.

The game has sold well because it strikes that perfectly delicate balance between “simple enough for anyone to pick it up and play” and “challenging enough to keep players hooked for hours.” Most of the great, best-selling games on any platform — mobile or otherwise — succeeded because they hit that sweet spot. But there’s also a balance between value gained and money spent. At $1, most people are willing to give the game a shot.

That helps it sell more copies than a pricier title would. The game’s Finnish developers could afford to sell it for such a low price because casual gamers don’t expect amazing 3D graphics, which are expensive to produce. They just expect fun, and if a developer has a great idea, that can be comparatively cheap to turn into a reality.

Which mobile games stood out for you? Let us know your own top five in the comments or nominate them for the “Best Mobile Game” for the Mashable Awards.

The Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity (Vegas)

In partnership with Cirque du Soleil, The Mashable Awards Gala event will bring together the winners and nominees, the Mashable community, partners, media, the marketing community, consumer electronics and technology brands and attendees from the 2011 International CES Convention to Las Vegas on Thursday, January 6, 2011. Together, we will celebrate the winners and the community of the Mashable Awards at the Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage in the beautiful New York New York Hotel. The event will include acts and performances from our partner Cirque du Soleil Zumanity. In addition, there will be special guest presenters and appearances.

Date: Thursday, January 6th, 2011 (during International CES Convention week)
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 pm PT
Location: Cirque du Soleil Zumanity, New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas
Agenda: Networking, Open Bars, Acts, Surprises and the Mashable Awards Gala presentations
Socialize: Facebook, Foursquare, Meetup, Plancast, Twitter (Hashtag: #MashableAwards)

Register for Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage (Las Vegas - 2011 International CES convention) [Ticketed Event] in Las Vegas, NV  on Eventbrite

Thanks to our sponsors:

Mashable Awards Gala VIP Lounge sponsor:

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Influxis specializes in the deployment of creative streaming solutions. Services include large scale deployment, mobile streaming, turn-key applications, and enterprise support with custom network options. With the unique combination of a worldwide network, knowledgeable developer support and nearly a decade of streaming media experience, Influxis is an essential partner to businesses, advertisers, developers, educators, and others who seek expertise in innovative streaming.

Reviews: Android, Facebook, Foursquare, Google, Internet, Mashable, Twitter, iPhone

More About: android, angry birds, apple, casual games, epic citadel, epic games, Feature, fruit ninja, gameloft, gaming, Google, innovation, iOS, iphone, iPod Touch, List, mashable awards, mashable awards 2010, Mobile 2.0, mobile games, Nokia, Nokia N900, nova, pocket legends, PSP, social games, sony, Sony PSP, unreal, unreal engine, video games, webOS

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October 07 2010

5 Free Ways to Improve Your Typing Skills Online

Typwriter Image

If you didn’t pay attention in your high school typing class, you might be regretting it now. Hovering hesitantly over the keys with two fingers and poking away is a waste of time — not to mention it doesn’t look very professional. But don’t worry; like any other skill, you can improve.

Think of the time you could save if you upped your speed even by a few words per minute. To help you out, we’ve picked some free services that can improve your technique, accuracy and speed.

So, why not bookmark a few of the sites below, and the next time you have a few minutes to spare, instead of watching hiccuping cats on YouTube, invest some time in improving your productivity.

1. TypingMaster’s Typing Test

To begin, you need to assess your current typing skills in order to monitor your improvement and see how much you’re getting better over time. The best way to do this is with a quick typing test.

There are many sites that offer free typing tests, but we like TypingMaster’s version for its options in length of test, choice of topic to type about and the shareable results that you can post to Facebook and Twitter.

2. TypingWeb’s Free Tutorials

After you have determined just how adept you are, it’s time to start improving and correcting all the bad keyboard habits you’ve been using. According to the accepted wisdom on typing, to touch type most efficiently, your hands should be placed over the keyboard in a particular way.

TypingWeb.com offers some comprehensive free tutorials to get you using the correct hand positioning, even at the beginner level. To start, you’ll learn which hand you should be using and when. Proceed to more advanced tutorials and practice sessions that utilize a combination of letters, numbers and symbols to get your fingers flying properly around the keyboard.

TypingWeb also offers a neat way to start your day — its “News Headline Exercises” will have you typing the top stories from Google News, Fox Sports or ABC, so it’s an ideal way to catch up on the headlines and improve your typing skills at the same time.

If you want to keep track of your progress, simply take advantage of the site’s free registration so you can save your work.

3. Sense-Lang’s Balloon Game

Once you know where your fingers should be, the next thing to do is know where the keys are. This way, you can type without removing your eyes from the screen and you’ll see the biggest boost in speed.

One fun way to do this is with an online game from Sense-Lang. Letters fall down the screen on balloons that you have to burst by hitting the correct key. It’s simple, addictive and a surefire way to get to know where the “K” key is without peeking.

4. Rapid Typing Zone’s TypeDown

Once you have your hand positioning down and feel comfortable knowing the location of every key, the next step is to improve your speed.

Practice, as with anything, is the key to lightning-fast typing skills. And sometimes a game can offer more excitement and incentive than day-to-day typing tasks.

TypeDown is a very minimalist race-against-time game that will get you typing a great selection of random words as fast as you can in order to stop the stack from piling up and hitting the top of the screen.

With some retro gaming effects, it adds a nice dash of urgency to really get your fingers flailing.

5. TypeOnline’s Number Pad Lessons

We aren’t forgetting the numerical side of things and have a service in mind made specially for anyone looking to improve on the number pad.

In addition to general advice on technique for typing on your keyboard’s number pad, TypeOnline offers eight free online lessons to help you improve your skills and speed on the right-hand side.

BONUS: Play TypeRacer!

Once you feel you’ve honed some serious typing skills, here is a fun typing-based web game where you can take on typists from around the globe or challenge your buddies to a type-off.

TypeRacer’s simple online game will randomly match you up live with another player. It will also provide you with a unique URL that you can share to type-race against friends, family or colleagues — it’s what we call good, clean fun!

More Productivity Resources from Mashable:

- 10 Killer Firefox Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts
- 18 Online Productivity Tools for Your Business
- 37 Productivity Tips for Working From Anywhere
- 10 Dead Simple Gmail Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts
- HOW TO: Use a Start Page to Stay Organized

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, narvikk

More About: business, games, gaming, List, Lists, online gaming, productivity, small business, typing, websites

For more Tech coverage:

October 04 2010

5 Experiences that Redefined Online Gaming in 2010 [Mashable Awards]

Quake Live Image

Mashable Awards ImageAs part of the upcoming Mashable Awards, we’re taking a closer look at each of the nomination categories. This is “Best Online Game,” click HERE for our previous coverage. Be sure to nominate your favorites and join us for the Gala in Las Vegas!

Gaming has shifted in the past decade from an introverted, anti-social experience to the connected, social space that is modern online gaming. Its rapid evolution, however, has made it a difficult thing to define.

Online gaming is made up of different “types” of games and gamers, each with their overlapping benefits. If some of your fondest memories were made playing Duke Nukem 3D on the Total Entertainment Network, then you’ll likely appreciate the competitive nature of online gaming. If your college roommates watched you devolve into some sort of Gollum-like creature after playing Ultima Online for 72 hours straight, then you’re probably the hardcore type who wants to lose yourself in an online world (much like the siren’s call of World of Warcraft). If you’ve been joyfully tending your acreage in FarmVille, then you’re likely part of a new breed of casual gamers who just want a small but meaningful social diversion.

Regardless of how you classify yourself, you should take pride in saying, “I’m a gamer.” So here are some of the coolest things in online gaming that have made us proud to be gamers this year:

1. Good Old Games

Unlike Steam, the massively backed game distribution platform created by Valve, Good Old Games is just a place to download DRM-free “good old games” on the cheap. To date, GOG.com has partnered with publishers like Activision, Codemasters, Epic Games, Ubisoft and others to bring some of the most nostalgia-inducing games straight to your PC.

Releases from Good Old Games are more like limited edition DVDs and include compliments like soundtracks, avatars and wallpapers. Couple this with cool community features and an incredibly engaged forum population, and you get a compelling social gaming experience.

The downside? GOG.com games currently work only on PC.

2. Minecraft

It’s well enough that in a little over a year, Minecraft has raked in $3.8 million through its unique online distribution model. But when your indie game gets a pair of back-to-back Penny Arcade comics devoted to it, you don’t need to check your bank account to know you’re doing well.

If that got you interested, let me issue a word of caution: Minecraft is like a drug. It could ruin your life, but you’ll probably have some fun along the way. This sandbox game might not pack the prettiest graphics, but it allows gamers to control every aspect of the world by creating tools, homes and, of course, “mining.” Gamers can create and destroy as they please.

What makes Minecraft a marvel of online gaming is the method in which it’s been developed. Despite having over 300,000 users, the game isn’t actually finished. Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson is developing the game in the open. Rather than a final release, users can play the game as Persson tweaks, adds, or deletes game features in an organic way.

The Minecraft community is engaged in the creation of the game, making its actual development a social experience. Minecrafters respond to Persson’s proposed updates and modifications and actually influence the game trajectory. It’s an unprecedented model and it’s obviously paying off for Persson and his fans.

3. Star Craft II: Wings of Liberty – Battle.net

Video courtesy of Machinima.

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated game of the decade, Star Craft II: Wings of Liberty had an almost impossible task: Living up to the Star Craft franchise. But Blizzard doesn’t mess around, and the game has been almost universally lauded for its efforts.

Now, the reason Wings of Liberty appears on this list is as controversial as it is an achievement in online gaming. Star Craft is the largest competitive gaming platform in the world. The game is considered a sort of national pastime in South Korea and even has a couple of TV channels devoted to it.

When Star Craft II was released, Blizzard opted not to include LAN play in the game. Since most professional tournaments are conducted via LAN, the decision has thrown the professional gaming community for a bit of a loop.

In order to accommodate all Star Craft II multiplayer games moving online, Blizzard completely revamped its premium online gaming community, Battle.net. While it might not be the best thing for pro-gaming, it gives gamers of any skill level the ability to find an appropriate match online at any hour of the day.

4. Steam

Steam is a platform for digital distribution, digital rights management and multiplayer, which means it hits most of the online gaming bases. Basically anyone who has played a PC game in the past 10 years has used it at one point or another. The reason it’s on this list is because 2010 saw the release of Steam for Mac. While OS X is a long way from being a gaming powerhouse, the addition of Steam was like an adrenaline shot to its gaming heart.

As mentioned above, Steam is a juggernaut of a gaming platform. Valve currently has partnerships with virtually every major developer or publishing house.

While there are plenty of casual gaming titles on Steam, the service has titles catering to every type of gamer. What’s more, Steam games don’t sell out and, except for rare circumstances where bandwidth is limited, the only waiting you’ll have to do is for the download bar to hit 100%.

5. Quake Live

Video courtesy of Video Copilot.

If you’re looking to cause some carnage, Quake Live is as good a place to start as any. After building DOOM, id Software was one of the biggest rock stars of game development. The release of Quake in 1996 essentially created professional gaming, while its sequels, Quake 2 and Quake 3 Arena, were both major milestones in the first person shooter genre.

Quake Live is the latest installment to the series, and it’s set its sights on online gaming. Quake Live is not a goofy flash game — it’s a full, competitive platform contained entirely within a browser. What’s amazing is that Quake Live is essentially an extension of Quake 3, a game that, in its day, required massive amounts of computing horsepower.

Quake Live is free for the standard version, while the premium and pro packages add additional features for $2 and $4 respectively. It’s playable from modern browsers on PC, OS X and Linux.

What were your top gaming experiences from the past year? Were there any games that stood out as real gems in 2010? Let us know in the comments below, or better yet, nominate them for the Awards!

The Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity (Vegas)

In partnership with Cirque du Soleil, The Mashable Awards Gala event will bring together the winners and nominees, the Mashable community, partners, media, the marketing community, consumer electronics and technology brands and attendees from the 2011 International CES Convention to Las Vegas on Thursday, January 6, 2011. Together, we will celebrate the winners and the community of the Mashable Awards at the Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage in the beautiful New York New York Hotel. The event will include acts and performances from our partner Cirque du Soleil Zumanity. In addition, there will be special guest presenters and appearances.

Date: Thursday, January 6th, 2011 (during International CES Convention week)
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 pm PT
Location: Cirque du Soleil Zumanity, New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas
Agenda: Networking, Open Bars, Acts, Surprises and the Mashable Awards Gala presentations
Socialize: Facebook, Foursquare, Meetup, Plancast, Twitter (Hashtag: #MashableAwards)

Register for Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage (Las Vegas - 2011 International CES convention) [Ticketed Event] in Las Vegas, NV  on Eventbrite

Thanks to our sponsors:

Mashable Awards Gala VIP Lounge sponsor:

Influxis image

Influxis specializes in the deployment of creative streaming solutions. Services include large scale deployment, mobile streaming, turn-key applications, and enterprise support with custom network options. With the unique combination of a worldwide network, knowledgeable developer support and nearly a decade of streaming media experience, Influxis is an essential partner to businesses, advertisers, developers, educators, and others who seek expertise in innovative streaming.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Lobsterclaws

More About: Battle.net, Competitive Gaming, computer games, farmville, gaming, GOG.com, Good Old Games, List, Lists, mashable awards 2010, minecraft, online gaming, quake, Quake 3, Quake Live, Starcraft II, steam, TEN, Total Entertainment Network, Ultima Online, video games, world of warcraft, WoW

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August 29 2010

8 Free Blackberry Games Worth Downloading

It has probably happened to you. You download a free BlackBerry game, full of so much hope and promise, only to discover that it was a waste of time and disk space. “At least it was free,” you tell yourself.

This is an especially common experience for BlackBerry owners. There are, however, many free top-notch BlackBerry games out there. It’s just a matter of conducting the downloading experiments to sort them out –- which, luckily for you, we’ve already done.

We’ve weeded out throwbacks to Oregon Trail (we have nothing against Oregon Trail, but click-through decision screens — “Do you want to ford the river?” — are a bit past their prime), games that get old after a couple of plays, and games that were never much fun to begin with. The following eight games made the cut.

1. Ka-Glom

Match Tetris-style falling pieces (Gloms) by color. If you group four Gloms of one color together, they explode and disappear (Ka-Glom!), which earns you points. Blocks, which don’t disappear when you group them, disappear and earn points when Gloms explode near them.

2. Number Cruncher

You would think a name like Number Cruncher would scare away a lot of people, but this is consistently one of the BlackBerry App World’s most popular free games.

There’s actually no math involved. The object is to create as many sequences of numbers in an allotted amount of time. For instance, circling a sequence (2,3,4) or multiples (2,2,2) of numbers earns points. As in Ka-Glom, matched numbers disappear and cause the board to shift. The developer describes it as “a cross between Sudoku and Tetris.”

3. Sudoku Lite

You don’t need to buy the physical newspaper just for the Sudoku anymore. This app comes with 10 puzzles and three levels of difficulty to attempt each at. Just like the paper version, the game allows players to note multiple number possibilities in each box. There’s also an option to manually add puzzles from outside sources like newspapers, but it seems like in that case it would be easier to just borrow a pencil.

4. 3D PBA Bowling 2 – Lite

Brought to you by the Professional Bowling Association, this is more than a point and click bowling game. Players choose to play a single game or a tournament and have the option to play against a second player or a handful of pro bowlers. Superior graphics make the choice of lane type and location come to life. Choosing a different ball weight and timing an appropriate release (with the option to add some spin) make the game a must for any BlackBerry-toting fan of the lanes.

5. Pixelated

Pixelated Image

The object is to change a quilt of multicolored squares (or pixels) into a solid color screen. Your first move only affects the colored square in the upper left-hand corner; you choose which color the square should change to. When it changes, the number of squares your next color choice affects grows by the number of surrounding blocks that the first block now matches.

It’s strangely addicting to watch the blob of uniform color you’ve created expand across the screen. Under the default settings, you must clear the screen in fewer than 21 moves to win.

6. Blocked Traffic Free

Remember the plight of the little red car in the Rush Hour puzzle? Same concept here. In this game, you move traffic to clear a path for a little red car. The original plastic version came with 40 puzzles; the free Blocked Traffic app comes with 80 puzzles.

7. GT LinkFour, Blackjack, Roulette, TexasHoldem & Warship

These games from Gold Thumb hook you up with an opponent to play an online version of classic games like Connect Four, Blackjack, Roulette, Texas Hold Em and Battleship. They’re all easy and intuitive to use, which is why they made this list. Plus, it’s more fun to play an ostensible human being than a computer.

8. Par 72 Golf Lite

Are you at work but would rather be golfing? This app lets you choose a club, line up the shot, and decide how hard to swing. Unfortunately an avatar still handles execution, but it’s about as close to golfing as you’ll get in a cubicle. The free version lets you play three different holes.

More BlackBerry Resources from Mashable:

- 15 Free Tools to Turn Your BlackBerry into a Communications Powerhouse
- Why Smartphone Adoption May Not Be as Big as You Think
- A Look Back at the Last 5 Years in Mobile
- 10 Must-Have BlackBerry Apps for Small Business
- 4 Ways BlackBerry Can Stay Relevant

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Alija

More About: 3D PBA Bowling 2, blackberry, blackberry apps, Blackberry Games, Blocked Traffic, games, Gold Thumb, Ka-Glom, LinkFour, List, Lists, Number Cruncher, Par 72 Golf Lite, Pixelated, Sudoku

For more Mobile coverage:

August 21 2010

10 Classic PC Games That Found New Life on the iPhone

Apple’s iPhone may mark a second golden age of computer gaming for a lot of reasons. The open marketplace means anyone can create a game; from major companies to just a couple of talented people in a garage. The result is a new boom in innovation, the likes of which we haven’t seen in about 20 years.

Even with all the potential for innovation, maybe you still want to relive that first golden age of gaming. If you’re excited for how new tech can update the classics, then this list is for you: 10 of the greatest, most influential, straight-up classic computer games ever made, all available on and completely remastered for Apple’s handset, and in most cases also playable on the iPod touch and iPad.

There are so many phenomenal PC game ports for the iPhone that we had a hard time narrowing it down to just 10. We couldn’t help but sneak in a very special bonus at the end. Flip through the gallery below for the list and be sure and tell us about your favorites too.

1. Doom Classic

The mother of all first-person shooters, this game is so iconic that it spawned a web community dedicated to getting other devices to play it. As for the iPhone, we can safely say: "It plays Doom."

Price: $6.99

2. Myst

A masterwork of interactive storytelling, this game was unlike any that came before it. Blatant imitators have been making games for more than 15 years now.

Price: $4.99

3. The Oregon Trail

An educational game that became part of an entire generation's zeitgeist, The Oregon Trail got a radical renovation for the iPhone. The graphics are improved, and there are a lot of fun mini-games to now play during your journey.

Price: $2.99

4. The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition

One of the funniest games of all time, The Secret of Monkey Island was made by the illustrious LucasArts adventure game studio. You can play the game as it originally appeared, or you can play the voiced and redrawn version. The iPhone remastering of the sequel just came out, too.

Price: $7.99

5. Plants vs. Zombies

It's not very often that a game comes out that can be called a classic just over a year after its release. Few would dispute that Plants vs. Zombies is deserving of the title. It's hard to believe that the game originated on the PC, though, because once you play it on a touchscreen, you won't want to go back.

Price: $2.99

6. Beneath a Steel Sky: Remastered

Not as well-known as The Secret of Monkey Island, Beneath a Steel Sky was a point-and-click, cult hit adventure game. Solve the mysteries and meet the strange characters of a post-apocalyptic world in this one.

Price: $2.99

7. Prince of Persia Retro

The PC wasn't known for its platform jumping games. But Prince of Persia was a uniquely PC take on the console-dominated genre. This remastered version is faithful to the original, including its unforgiving difficulty. Watch yourself.

Price: $0.99

8. Rogue Touch

Rogue is the great grandfather of World of Warcraft. Until that hugely popular MMO hits the iPhone, this is one of your best bets. As with Monkey Island, you can play either the remastered version or the original (in this case an ASCII-text only affair). Yes, Rogue is really that old, but its influence is strongly felt even today.

Price: Free

9. Sim City Deluxe

Everyone knows SimCity. This iPhone version is basic compared to some of the later offerings in the series, but when you're playing on the go, that's probably okay.

Price: $6.99

10. Worms

Another cult hit, Worms was the final evolution of an obscure genre of games that involved calculating angles and wind speeds to deliver lethal volleys at friends. Worms was more action-oriented and hilarious, and the franchise has been a staple for gamers for a long time now.

Price: $4.99

BONUS: Frotz

Frotz isn't a game on its own, but we had to include it because it's one of the most exciting classic PC gaming apps for the iPhone.

It's kind of like an iBooks or Kindle for interactive fiction. Text-based adventure games were immensely popular in the late 70s and early 80s; if you remember those times, you won't want to miss Frotz. It runs many of your old favorites, plus new adventures made by enthusiasts who are still being creative today.

Price: Free

More entertainment resources from Mashable:

- 10 iPad Games Worth Paying For
- 10 Awesome Vintage Video Games You Can Play Online
- 10 Cool Konami Code Easter Eggs
- 10 Fun Casual Games for Android Phones
- HOW TO: Download Google Pac-Man Game for Free

More About: apple, Beneath a Steel Sky, classic games, classics, Doom, DoS, games, iOS, ipad, iphone, iPod Touch, Mobile 2.0, myst, pc, pc games, plants vs zombies, Rogue, simcity, The Oregon Trail, The Secret of Monkey Island, video games, Windows, Wolfenstein 3D, worms

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